|Issue No 122||07 December 2001|
BHP Steel Workers Fight for Security
By Andrea Carson
About 6000 Australian Workers' Union (AWU) members at BHP Steel will walk off the job this week for 24 hours after a breakdown in enterprise bargaining talks.
The AWU members voted at mass meetings across Australia to take action after the company refused to commit to security of employment principles in a new EBA.
National Secretary of the AWU, Mr Bill Shorten, said security of employment agreements were the most important provisions in past EBAs at the company's major sites during the past 20 years.
The last agreement expired late August.
"In the past we gave a commitment to lift productivity and develop a process for resolving disputes in exchange for BHP giving a commitment to maintain steelmaking in Australia and agree to no enforced retrenchments," Mr Shorten said.
"We have kept our end of the deal, but now after 20 years BHP is trying to use this agreement to break their promise of job security to employees.''
Mr Shorten said that while the steel industry worldwide faced difficult times, it was no worse than the 1980s when BHP gave its first undertaking to stamp out forced retrenchments.
About 6000 AWU BHP steel workers across all operations in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia will, at the start of their shift, stop work for 24 hours on Monday 10 December.
The action will involve about 1200 Victorian BHP steel workers at Sunshine, Western Port, Nunawading, Braeside and Geelong, and about 4000 workers at Port Kembla in New South Wales.
The AWU's Assistant National Secretary Mr Graham Roberts said workers were also upset at BHP's plans to replace its incentive scheme with an inferior model.
"It is only fair that if the company is performing well and its managers and shareholders are being rewarded, than the people who produce the steel - the workers - get fairly rewarded too,'' he said.
The union is also seeking improved wages, guarantees concerning workers' entitlements and long service leave to be available after 10 years instead of the current 15 years.
"To accept BHP's offer to date would be to deliver our members the worst pay and conditions for steel workers in Australia,'' Mr Roberts said.
He said the dispute was now national, and followed 4000 Port Kembla Steel workers in NSW downing tools for 48 hours last month in protest over the company's EBA proposals.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005