||Issue No. 324||15 September 2006|
Interview: Australia’s Most Wanted
Industrial: The Fox and the Contractor
Unions: Industrial Wasteland
International: Two Bob's Worth
Economics: National Interest
Environment: The Real Dinosaur
History: Only In Spain?
Review: Clerk Off
Bosses on the Barbie
Supporters of Radio Rentals technicians, locked out for a month in a bid to starve them onto income-slashing AWAs, will protest outside the homes of company directors.
Footpath community barbecues will be held at 2 Mackillof Rd, Mitcham, South Australia; 6 Braeside St, Wahroonga, NSW; and 4 Florence St, Brighton East, Victoria.
Respectively, those premises are occupied by Radio Rentals company secretary, Barry Walker, and fellow directors, Gavin Hancock and Christopher Riordan.
AMWU national official, Glenn Thompson, said the barbecues would be a "peaceful" means of drawing attention to individuals who hoped to profit from the aggressive use of John Howard's IR laws.
Radio Rentals became a cause celebre for the extreme Right when it broke off collective negotiations with staff and sacked three union activists, including a delegate with 17 years' service.
Because it employs less than 100 people at its Prospect, Adelaide, store, WorkChoices denies anyone the right to launch an unjustified dismissal action.
With the activists out of the way, Radio Rentals hit remaining technicians with non-negotiable AWAs that would cut their incomes.
When technicians imposed a four-hour weekly protest stoppage, after winning the first WorkChoices industrial action ballot in South Australia, Radio Rentals locked them out for a month.
Last week, the company, represented by law firm Minter Ellison that helped Howard draw up his legislation, launched a bid in the Industrial Relations Commission for return to work orders.
The move, labelled "bizarre" by Thompson, dragged out for more than 24 hours, at first by video link to a Perth-based Commissioner, then face-to-face after he flew to Adelaide.
"It was a bizarre effort to stop a community protest," Thompson said. "The fact is, we are not taking any industrial action, we have been locked out for a month."
Eventually, the company withdrew its application.
Thompson says Radio Rentals knows it is in trouble in the court of public opinion.
"After the Commission hearing they came to us and asked us to call off the protest. We agreed, on condition that everyone went back to the status quo which would have meant reinstating our activists and returning to negotiations.
"They refused and the protest went ahead. The support for the technicians was overwhelming," Thompson said.
More than 300 people gathered outside the store and thousands of dollars were raised.
The South Australian Transport Workers and Nurses Unions both wrote out $5000 cheques that will go into a fund to ensure technicians can keep feeding their families.
Sixteen technicians are locked out and another five, who have refused to sign AWAs, are still inside, on light duties, because they can't be dumped while they are on rehabilitation programs.
The plight of Radio Rentals workers has moved the ALP to promise to allow workers a vote on the type of agreement they will be covered by, if it wins office next year.
The new policy, announced by Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, would allow workers to take their case to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission if their boss refuses to negotiate collectively.
The Commission would determine whether or not a majority of affected workers wanted to bargain collectively.
If it was convinced a majority existed, it would have the power to order the employer to negotiate.
"If a majority want a collective agreement, they can have it," Beazley said. "If a majority don't, they shouldn't. That's a fair system."
Donations to support Radio Rentals staff can be made at any branch of the National Australia Bank.
The BSB Number is: 082-057
The Account Number is: 86-239-3418
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