||Issue No. 244||29 October 2004|
Raking Over The Tea Leaves
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
Nothing To Stand On
It’s The End Of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Dear Mark letter
Union Shelters WA Roofers
In the unprecedented action, contractors and workers joined forces to wring improvements out of four companies benefiting from the state’s home building boom.
Monier, Bristile, Prime and anti-union activist Len Buckeridge's Harmony Group had operated a restrictive system in the traditionally un-unionised sector by selling tiles and labour as a bundled product.
Tiling contractors said they would eventually need 50 percent increases to bring their workers onto parity with eastern states counterparts.
During their stoppage, the CFMEU received public support from unexpected quarters. Local broadcaster and former West Australian editor, Paul Murray, said the WA tiling industry had "all the hallmarks of a modern day sweatshop".
CFMEU state secretary, Kevin Reynolds, said the four companies had suppressed rates to the point that, in the midst of a housing boom, contractors couldn't afford to pay award minimums.
"Even though the award pay for a first year junior is just $6 an hour, most didn't even get that," Reynolds said. "Other kids got more working at McDonalds and KFC.
"The only future for young tilers in this state was to be robbed blind and then thrown on the scrap heap when they burned out at an early age."
Back in 1992, WA IRC chief commissioner Bill Coleman, reported that few tilers remained in the industry until their 50s.
"Their fate appears to be either to obtain a position as a supervisor or be forced out on the invalid pension," Coleman reported.
A recent Housing Industry Association report found that the average pay of WA tradesmen had risen 12.5 percent in the past year, except in the roofing industry where rates had moved 1.5 percent.
When the CFMEU launched its campaign, the tiling cartel threatened ACCC action against contractors who supported increased rates for their employees on the grounds that it was a breach of the Trades Practices Act.
About 800 tilers were involved in the strike. They returned to work this week after the companies agreed to fund 15 percent increases, over three years; and increase casual loadings, redundancy, sick leave and annual leave entitlements.
Tilers also won site and height allowance payments.
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