||Issue No. 163||29 November 2002|
Lessons from History
Interview: Trade Secrets
Industrial: It’s About Overtime, Stupid
Unions: Full Steam Ahead
Bad Boss: The BBQ Battle Axe
Economics: Different Dimensions of Debt
History: Raking the Coals
History Special: Wherever the Necessity Exists
History Special: Learning from the Past
History Special: A 'Cosy Relationship'
Politics: Regime Change for Saddam
International: World War
Corporate: Industrious Thinking
Review: Jack High
Culture: Duffy’s Song
Satire: A Nation of Sooks
Poetry: Mr Flexibility
The Locker Room
Month In Review
State Based Organising
Gino on the Gong
And On the Seventh Day – Satan Joins Union
Workers from the company’s Berkeley Vale and Tuggerah manufacturing plants rallied last Friday against the dismissal of John Draper who was sacked after leading a successful campaign to reject a non-union enterprise bargaining agreement.
Seventh Day Adventist-controlled Sanitarium upped the stakes dramatically, last week, when a manager distributed leaflets penned by church founder, Ellen G.White, which described unions as "Satanic".
"The wicked are being bound up in bundles, bound up in trusts, in unions, in confederacies. Let us have nothing to do with these organisations," White implored.
"The trades unions will be agencies that will bring upon this earth a time of trouble such as has not been seen since the world began."
The message was distributed after several months of campaigning in which the food company, which manufacturers heavily-advertised brands Weet Bix and So Good, refused to deal with the AMWU, enter a union-negotiated EBA or, according to the union, even correctly apply minimum award rates.
AMWU Food and Confection Division federal secretary, Jenny Dowell, tried to defuse religious elements of the conflict and concentrate on industrial issues.
"We don't want this to be about religion because we don't think it is," she said. "We respect their rights to their beliefs but insist that they respect the rights of these people to be represented."
The AMWU has lodged an unfair dismissal case on behalf of Draper, who worked for Sanitarium for eight years, and has also launched freedom of association proceedings in the Federal Court.
Sanitatrium is a multi-national, multi-million dollar business that benefits from passing itself off as a non-profit, religious organisation. It gets tax breaks not available to competitors and has a history of resisting unionisation.
Draper was pivotal, several years ago, in organising a back pay claim that resulted in the company being forced to shell out $3.2 million to workers around Australia.
Since then more than half the manufacturing workforce at Tuggerah and Berkeley Vale have joined the union. Draper now convenes a committee of elected delegates from the two plants who have turned their recent attention to winning an EBA and having the existing award correctly implemented.
During EBA discussions Sanitarium conceded that staff could have outside representation "subject to the crieteria of it not being from a current union organisation". Instead, it suggested, workers use one of its consultants as an "independent representative".
After workers rejected Sanitarium's EBA, Draper was sacked. The company claimed he had harassed a supervisor.
"This company contends that normal delegate duties are harassment," Dowell says. "The central problem is that they simply don't recognise trade unions and everything else stems from that."
Dowell called on Employment Advocate Jonathan Hamberger to take action against Sanitarium under the same freedom of association provisions he lines up against trade unions.
"We know how much money and resources Hamberger devotes to people who don't want to join trade unions," she said. "It would be nice to think he might be prepared to do something to defend the rights of people who want representation."
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