||Issue No. 150||30 August 2002|
Shut It Down!
Interview: Australian Worker
Unions: Morning Ambush
Cole-Watch: Grumpy Old Men
International: Arrested (Sustainable) Development
History: Illegal Alien
Economics: The Trouble With PPPs
Poetry: Is This 'My Country'?
Review: Garage Days
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Monday, 26 August 2002. It is 6 am in the Sydney suburb of Ryde. A cool morning. Rain threatens, and eventually comes in showers. Well before the start of the working day, thirty unionists and supporters gather and blockade the entrance to the local headquarters of the multinational Trane company.
This is a manicured industrial corporate world of landscaped gardens, lawns, tame trees, suits, label clothing, laptops, water coolers, and latte by the litre.
Trane is a global American company specializing in air conditioning equipment. Since 1984 it has been part of the transnational business empire of American Standard Companies Inc (ASCI).
Last year ASCI notched up sales worth over $US7 billion. The empire traces its lineage back to pioneering American industrial businesses in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including the railway and automotive industries. The railway interests were shed during the 1980s in a corporate battle with Black & Decker.
Today the empire milks its wealth from the labour of workers internationally in three areas: air conditioning systems; plumbing supplies; automotive braking systems.
The Dayson compressor remanufacturing plant in Rydalmere is part of the empire, being a Trane subsidiary. The company has been used to a non-union brand of industrial relations, and individual contracts.
However last year Dayson workers joined the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU). Since then, along with a lone member of the Electrical Trades Union already on site, the workers have been seeking to negotiate a collective agreement with the company including a pay rise, a better redundancy package, and entitlements protection.
Dayson refused to negotiate collectively with the unionists, and seven employees were terminated, including two union delegates. In response the majority of the small workforce went on an indefinite stoppage and formed a picket line outside the Rydalmere plant.
An Industrial Relations Commission recommendation that the company put aside its ideological objection and negotiate with the unions has been defied.
The picket line of eleven workers has now been outside the plant for fourteen weeks.
The Dayson operation has been drastically curtailed, with the majority of trucks refusing to cross the line, leaving deliveries to unbadged vehicles and furtive traffic movements.
Striking workers have worked hard to build support, and there have been heartening expressions of solidarity and goodwill, donations of goods, money, and physical help with maintaining the line.
Monday's ambush was part of the campaign. The blockaders called upon the Trane-Dayson management to negotiate with the unions. It was a reminder to management and its corporate masters that the Rydalmere Eleven are real people. They might be suburbs away in the lawnless sweaty world of industrial Rydalmere, but they are unionists, and they are not going to disappear.
Monday's symbolic action brought the dispute to the front door of the American cleanskins and their Australian managers. No one got through the blockade, apart from a few who scuttled through a hidden back door. For the duration of the action a management honcho remained out in the cold, sheltering under an umbrella, a mobile phone clamped to his ear. The unionists and their supporters were civil, the police who attended were civil, and the management representative seemed queasily uncertain.
At 10 am the blockaders decamped and were led off site by the Rydalmere Eleven, union flags held high.
It is understood that since Monday's action management has agreed to begin talks with elected representatives of the striking workers and with union representatives to seek a way forward. In the meantime there will be no resumption of work, and the task of building support continues.
Supporters can attend the picket at 30 South Street, Rydalmere, Monday to Friday, 6am - 5pm. To contact the relevant AMWU organiser, phone Harry on 0419 402 650.
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