||Issue No. 227||02 July 2004|
A Place To Call Home
Interview: Power and the Passion
Unions: Tackling the Heavy Hitters
Industrial: Seeing the Forest For The Wood
Housing: Home Truths
International: Boycott Busters
Economics: Ideology and Free Trade
History: Long Shadow of a Forgotten Man
Review: Chewing the Fat
Poetry: Dear John
The Locker Room
NRMA Reverses Over Turnbull
This weekï¿½s victim is Ross Turnbull, stood down as head of the NSW motoring organisation, NRMA, after brokering a settlement to a long-running industrial dispute, that thwarted Stuartï¿½s contracting out agenda.
The NRMA was this week denying rumours of boardroom division but sources insisted Turnbull had been "rolled" by Stuart supporters.
AMWU assistant state secretary, John Parkin, wouldn't buy into the wrangle, other than to thank Turnbull for bringing "common sense to a situation that was out of control".
The chairman stepped up after Stuart delivered NRMA members a million dollar legal bill, with the promise of another $4.8 million to come.
Stuart had been out-manouevred by 420 patrol officers who used corporate governance to defend their jobs and conditions.
The wrangle started when Stuart moved to NRMA headquarters, fresh from helping corporatise Sydney Airport.
The new CEO wanted to contract out patrol officers' jobs and clawback long-standing conditions.
Months of stopwork meetings, bans, lockouts and IRC appearances failed to break the stand-off. The NRMA turned to lawyers and spin doctors who helped oversee the federal government's 1998 attacks on waterfront workers.
Then, the patrol officers changed tack, seeking a special NRMA meeting to vote their conditions into the company's constitution. Effectively, they wanted a referendum on whether rank and file NRMA members endorsed contracting out and condition stripping.
To get the special meeting, patrol officers and AMWU activists had to gather written requests from 100 members. They had 4280 within a fortnight but Stuart questioned their validity.
The NSW Supreme Court rejected the NRMA challenge and ordered the organisation to meet 75 percent of the AMWU's legal costs.
Aware that a special meeting would cost NRMA members $4.8 million to stage, Stuart appealed.
Unanimously, the three-judge bench dismissed that action, this time ordering the NRMA to meet all the union's costs.
"Two weeks ago, negotiations had completely broken down and the NRMA was looking at spending millions on a special meeting," Parkin reported.
Enter former Wallaby coach Turnbull.
In little more than a week, NRMA insistence on contracting out; forcing senior patrol officers onto weekend rosters; cutting mid-shift breaks; and using GPS to carry out surveillance on workers had been taken off the table.
Patrol officers voted up an agreement that delivered annual increases of five, four and four percent on top of $2000 sign-on bonuses.
When the Supreme Court accepted Parkin's assurance that the demands of signatories had been met, the NRMA's obligation to convene a special meeting disappeared.
Within 48 hours, Turnbull had been replaced as chairman by Jon Brett.
Sources at the troubled motoring organisation insisted it was Stuart's revenge.
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