||Issue No. 243||22 October 2004|
The Perfect Storm
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
Shop Till the Worker Drops
Bobís Silver Anniversary
Hit And Myth
Pratt Backs Warwick Farm Loser
Pratt's privately-owned company has had single-site, non-union agreements knocked back by workers at Warwick Farm, Dandenong and The Packaging Company, Smithfield, in the past week.
AMWU organiser, Juliana Dickinson, said Australia's second richest man should take the message on board and talk to worker representatives about a national agreement, overwhelmingly endorsed by employees at 14 sites.
"It's time Richard Pratt and his company listened to what the workers are saying. The overwhelming No vote is, in fact, a Yes vote for a national agreement," Dickinson said.
"The inducements haven't worked because people can smell a lemon from a mile off. They know they will be better off with the protection of an agreement that brings them together."
Dickinson was speaking after the first three ballot results were announced. Warwick Farm workers gave Pratt a 94-22 thumbs-down, while colleagues at Dandenong and Smithfield returned 97-57 and 48-3 results.
Those votes came after the company delayed Warwick Farm and Dandenong ballots by a week while managers aggressively promoted its single site case.
Over the next seven days, the Pratt proposal is scheduled to go before workers at Visyboard, Perth; Visy Paper, and Visyboard and Visy Recylcling sites, at Smithfield.
Visy has steadfastly refused to negotiate with the AMWU since formal moves for conciliation were initiated in August.
The company has warned that the interests of smaller site employees will be rolled by the weight of numbers at other workplaces.
"Union agreements are not about rolling anyone," Dickinson said. "Quite the opposite, they are about better outcomes and protections for everybody."
The AMWU, and its predecessors, have been involved in the Visy operation since it began with a single Brunswick site in 1948. Since that time it has grown into one of the world's biggest packaging operations with more than 4000 employees in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Asia.
In 2002, Pratt's personal wealth was estimated at $3.8 billion. Last year, Visy operations added more than half a billion to that figure. Business analysts estimate that Pratt trousers more than $60,000 a year for every person on his payrolls.
Yet, the billionaire is offering smaller wage increases than both his major competitors and wants to slash income protection rates.
He promised bonuses of $1000 a head to Warwick Farm workers if they would vote for his non-union agreement; $500 for Dandenong employees but nothing for their colleagues at Smithfield.
And that, in a nutshell, Dickinson says, is the problem with single site agreements.
"We believe people doing the same work, for the same company, should be entitled to the same improvements whether they are on a big site in WA, or a small one in Queensland," she said.
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