||Issue No. 241||08 October 2004|
That’s All Folks!
Interview: The Last Bastian
Unions: High and Dry
Security: Liquid Borders
Industrial: No Bully For You
History: Radical Brisbane
International: No Vacancies
Economics: Life After Capitalism
Technology: Cyber Winners
Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Locker Room
Numbers Racket at Yandi
Henry Walker Eltin, which extracts Pilbara iron ore for BHP Billiton, is spruiking the fact that AWA numbers have jumped from 40 to 80 since it locked out mineworkers.
But Tracey says those numbers flow from the contractor forcing new starters onto non-union individual contracts rather than any breakthrough in the battle for hearts and minds.
"They would be the only employers in Australia celebrating a 30 percent take-up rate," Tracey said. "They couldn't get their own workforce across because those people had the right to make up their own minds so, what they have done, is conscript people who needed jobs to keep their families going and claimed it as a victory.
"They had 15 percent of the original workforce and they have still got 15 percent of the people who were able to choose. Henry Walker Eltin's crowing is a celebration of mediocrity."
Yandi, hours from Newman in the remote Pilbara, is home to a showdown over the future of federal government AWAs in the booming minerals industry.
Companies, including BHP and Rio Tinto, have swung workforces away from union-negotiated agreements by putting massive bounties on individual agreements.
Yandi is the first mine site to overwhelmingly reject AWAs and Henry Walker Eltin has reacted with a brand of hardball that blows arguments about "freedom of choice" out the window.
The concept is undermined by inducements, worth about 25 percent of earnings, to walk away from collective contracts. When workers rejected those lures, Henry Walker Eltin decided that signing an AWA would be a prerequisite for new starters.
That insistence is at the heart of the stand-off between Yandi workers and the company. Unionised employees are demanding that new colleagues be given the freedom to choose between individual and collective contracts.
Tracey says that "fundamental democratic right" will be on the table when parties resume discussions after a softening up period of rolling stoppages, lockouts and, in one case, a lock-down in which workers were locked into their remote desert camp.
Meanwhile, Federal Court judge, Justice French, has ruled that, for the purposes of the Workplace Relations Act, lockout notices don't actually have to inform anyone of the employer's intention.
Justice French rejected an AMWU claim that Henry Walker Eltin lockout notices were deficient because unions couldn't have been aware of the action before it took place.
The company had pinned a lockout notice to the door of the union's Perth office at 5.30am on a Sunday, and locked its members out of Yandi, hundreds of kilometres to the north east, half an hour later.
Justice French accepted the company's view that for lockouts in response to industrial action, the Act did not require actual notification, only that the notice be written.
Justice French also found the company had given individual workers sufficient notice of the lockout, even when notices had been received after the lockout had started.
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