||Issue No. 203||14 November 2003|
Beyond the Workplace
Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
Unions: Joel's Law
National Focus: Spring Carnival
Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
Industrial: The Price of War
Economics: Who's Got What
History: Containing Discontent
Review: An Honourable Wally
Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
Perils Of Pauline
Put A PM On The Barbie
Tom Holds Water
Road Workers Swing Left-Right Blows
CFMEU organiser, Steve Dixon, credits the inter-union agreement with keeping together workers, paid around $300 a week less than standard industry rates.
"This is the way Abigroup works," Dixon says, "it goes to the bush and picks up blokes doing it tough, denies them the $330 living away from home allowance and then uses it to exploit them.
"In the past it has been able to play off one union against the other but not any more."
Dixon said that when workers demanded parity with others in the industry, Abigroup employed its usual tactic of telling the AWU the CFMEU had approached it for a single-union agreement, and telling the CFMEU its traditional civil construction rival had done the same.
"Trouble is," he said, "we told each other. We were able to go a meeting and tell the employer he was lying."
Dixon said the dispute was the most important in civil construction's recent history because Abigroup was determined to slash wages and conditions in a move competitors would have to take into account in future tenders.
The 60 strikers are employed on road or bridge jobs at Coopernook, Weatherill Park, Bangor and Katooomba. More than half those employed at the last two venues have had to either move out of caravan parks or rented accommodation since the dispute began.
The two unions are holding collections around Sydney, Newcastle and 'Wollongong sites and were this week able to make contributions towards strikers living costs.
AbiGroup is in the process of being taken over by German engineering company, BillfingerBurger, which already owns Australian construction heavyweight Balderstone Hornibrook.
The Left-Right union combination had its first workout in a recent dispute with the Abi-Leightons joint venture building the Western Orbital motorway. Protracted action beat off attempts to introduce AWAs and won significant wage increases.
The unions sealed their new approach in a formal agreement, brokered by NSW Labor Council representatives, and signed last Thursday.
Labor Council secretary, John Robertson, warned the industry the rules had changed as a result.
"If I was an employer in civil construction I would be very nervous," he said. "For the first time, in a very long time, these two unions are focused on the main game. Things will be very different as a result."
CFMEU representatives made a light-hearted presentation to AWU secretary, Russ Collison at last Thursday's Labor Council meeting with CFMEU president, Peter McLelland, apologising to delegates in advance for ruining much of the entertainment they had come to expect.
"The only place most delegates ever expected the CFMEU and AWU to bury the hatchet was in each other's foreheads," McLelland admitted.
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