||Issue No. 225||18 June 2004|
No Place Like Home
Interview: The New Democrat
Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
Industrial: National Focus
History: A Class Act
International: Across the Ditch
Economics: Home Truths
Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
Poetry: Silent Note
The Locker Room
Multi Bets on China Card
AMWU members at electronics giant, HPM, are calling on community supporters to help them extract living wages from Peter Simon, estimated by BRW to be worth $170 million.
They have asked Australians to write to HPM backing their "social justice" agenda after the company rejected every claim advanced on behalf of 400 process workers and tradesman in enterprise bargaining negotiations, last week.
The AMWU says Simon's company has put China on the bargaining table in a bid to frighten the predominantly female workforce off fighting for a better deal.
Secretary, Paul Bastian, says the federal government laid the groundwork for HPM's resistance by ignoring basic labour standards in its push for free trade agreements.
"This company says it will source product from China. It has held meetings and sent out circulars canvassing that option if these people improve their wages and conditions," Bastian said.
"It's an insult to low paid workers who are proud of HPM's success and committed to retaining manufacturing jobs in Australia. But it is the natural result of government policies that pay no attention to core labour standards."
Thus far, HPM has ducked union requests for commitments to continue production in Australia.
The hourly rate for most process workers at HPM's Waterloo, Alexandria and Roseberry plants is $13.18 an hour and organiser Martin Cartwright says that is well below the industry standard.
"I can name two other companies in the same area and the same industry where the base rate is at least $2 higher," Cartwright says. "Eighty three percent of the HPM workforce is female yet there isn't a single provision in the current agreement that provides for the special needs of women workers.
"This isn't just a wage issue, it is a social justice issue."
Cartwright said the majority of the workforce had English as a second language but its commitment to the company was evidenced by its nine-strong bargaining committee, the shortest serving of whom has been with HPM for 15 years.
The AMWU is preparing information packs, as well as postcards and letters that supporters will be urged to send to workers and/or the company.
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