||Issue No. 165||20 December 2002|
Interview: Taking Stock
Bad Boss: Pushing the Envelope
Unions: The Year That Was
Republic: Still Fighting
International: Global Ties, Global Binds
Politics: Turning Green
Technology: Unions Online 2002
Industrial: The Past Is Before Us
Economics: Market Insecurity
Review: Shooting for Sanity
Poetry: The PM's Christmas Message
Culture: Zanger's Sounds of Summer
The Locker Room
Vale: Phil Berrigan
Abbott Gears For Grocon Stoush
Clearly disappointed by the 440-150 secret ballot result, the Workplace Relations Minister suggested voters would not necessarily get their way.
"I think that this is the opening skirmish rather than the closing battle, so to speak, in this particular campaign," Abbott told the media after the result was announced
Abbott has admitted holding meetings with Grocon boss, Daniel Grollo, as the latter plotted to use the Workplace Relations Act to sideline the CFMEU.
His plan, openly supported by Abbott, had appeared to swing on an early-morning, December 19 mass meeting at the Moonee Valley Racecourse from which CFMEU representatives were barred.
Workers, surrounded by up to 200 salaried staff not be covered by the negotiations, were asked to vote on a Section 170LK agreement to which their union would not be a party. The carrot-and-stick case put by Grollo included additional leave inducements and a warning that rejection would jeopardise employment.
The company's corporate-style presentation was chaired by former AFL star and Brownlow medalist, Robert Dipiedominico.
But, despite the urgings of the Murdoch-controlled Herald Sun and Australian newspapers, construction workers rejected Grollo's anti-union proposition.
However, the way Grocon counted its ballot has left open the possibility of Government becoming embroiled in another Patrick-style rort, where workers are transferred from one company to another without their knowledge or agreement.
Despite being listed on IBIS' World Company Profiles as a company with "no subsidiaries" Grocon divided ballot results amongst five separate entities and, just minutes after the meeting, put out a press release announcing "100 per cent" support for its proposition at one of those "companies". It was later revealed that this referred to a 2-0 vote of staff at something called Grocon PL.
Grocon, understood to be in trouble after under-estimating costs on its $425 million MCG redevelopment, has launched legal action against the CFMEU and five leading officials, including state secretary Martin Kingham. Industry sources suggest costings were underestimated because the company failed to take into account 60 down days forced by major sporting events. The CFMEU has offered to negotiate "flexibilities" for the MCG job.
Union officials were this week playing down the spectre of being caught in a Grocon-Federal Government pincer movement.
They urged the company to respect the wishes of its employees and commit to the industry agreement which all other major Victorian construction contractors and sub-contractors have signed.
Kingham said the principle area of disagreement between the Grocon proposal and the pattern agreement was hours of work. Grocon wants to be able to work their employees unlimited hours and to buy out rostered days off, annual leave and sick leave.
"They're talking about winding back the clock," Kingham said. "We are moving towards family-friendly hours that recognise the other responsibilities of construction workers, while they are pushing Abbott's agenda to eliminate leisure time.
"Grocon should respect the democratic decision of its employees and recognise they have voted overwhelmingly for union representation."
Abbott, meanwhile, claimed "union coercion" had been behind rejection of the Grocon proposal. He refused to give any evidence in support of the allegation.
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