Interview: On Holiday
Unions: One Day Longer
Industrial: Never Mind the Bollocks
Politics: Spun Out
Economics: If the Grog Don't Get You ....
History: Taking a Stand
International: The Split
Legal: Pushing the Friendship
Poetry: Simple Subtractions
Review: Sydney Trashed
The Locker Room
AFL-CIO Not The Only War
We Love Morris
A Readers Suggestion
One Day Longer
The engineers from Boeing have now been locked out for over two months. The battle for a collective agreement with the American aircraft giant has turned into a marathon with both sides refusing to give ground. It has been one of the symbols of the fight for fairness in the workplace.
The workers want the security of a collective agreement but Boeing wants them on dog-eats-dog individual contracts. It is a painful impasse, but the workers know what they are doing what is fundamentally right.
We arrived at the picket line after a day travelling through Newcastle. This is the town described as the microcosm of Australia. From its industrial days to the switch to service industries when the steelworks closed down, Newcastle has been Australia's bellwether - moving with the economy.
Pulling up at the Boeing picket line, just outside Newcastle Airport, the idea that Newcastle is a microcosm rings true. Here, on the outskirts of Newcastle, 42 aircraft maintenance engineers stand among signs which say "EBA or Here to Stay" and "Boeing Proud to be un-Australian". This is where choice is just a word.
When we came to Williamtown, five weeks into the picket, it was clear we had followed innumerable people before us. There are no smiles to greet you on the picket line, but the workers are glad you've come. "How ya goin'" is the greeting. Cars pass blowing their horns. They know the community supports them. They know they are doing the right thing.
The Boeing boys tell us their story. They tell us that individual contracts had been tried before and hadn't worked. They tell us how they worked on the F/A 18 jets that fly above and fly in Iraq. They tell us how the company refuses to talk to them. They tell us how the community does what they can to support them.
After some moments talking, everyone's attention turned to a nearby gum where a koala had made his home. The workers joked that he had come to join the picket. Perhaps he had. Perhaps he had come to remind people what country this was - a country talks about concepts like "mateship" and "a fair go" - things that seem to have gone missing for some people in the industrial relations debate.
As we left it was clear that the boys were frustrated by the situation, but also clear was their determination to get through it. They were not moving.
Driving out we passed the sign that summed up their attitude:
"One day longer than Boeing."
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