Date: Sun, 23 Mar 97 22:56:09 CST
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Melbourne Transit Workers Stop Work
/** labr.global: 303.0 **/
/* Written 2:59 PM Mar 16, 1997 by peg:greenleft in igc:greenleft.news */ Title: Melbourne public transport dispute continues
Melbourne public transport dispute continues
By Tully Bates, for IGC LaborNews. 16 March, 1997.
MELBOURNE - A mass meeting of 2000 public transport workers on March 6 voted almost unanimously to stop work from midnight, March 7, until midnight, March 9, over the Australian Grand Prix weekend. The decision followed the breakdown of negotiations between public transport unions and the government.
The Public Transport Union, Australian Services Union, Electrical Trades Union and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union have been attempting to negotiate a new enterprise bargain with the Kennett government since the middle of 1996.
At the beginning of March an in-principle agreement had been reached to allow the government to break up the Public Transport Corporation into five separate corporations for a 10% pay increase and a guarantee of no losses in jobs, wages or conditions. At the last moment, the government reneged and offered 6% with no guarantees.
The Kennett government has responded to the strike by threatening to move immediately to privatisation of public transport. Kennett has also threatened to invoke the Essential Services Act or the Vital Industries Act to prevent further strike action. Under these acts, unions can be fined up to $250,000 for striking.
Although the mass meeting overwhelmingly agreed to the strike, the secretary of the tram division of the PTU, Lou Di Gregorio, asked tram workers to vote again in workplace meetings. Di Gregorio then told the media that he and his members did not support the strike and tram workers had been physically threatened to stop them from speaking against the strike. Despite the confusion sown by Di Gregorio, no-one broke the strike.
The Labor Party's response to the dispute has been weak. Opposition leader John Brumby made several statements mildly rebuking both Kennett and the unions and urging them to talk to each other.
According to opinion polls, public sentiment is running high against public transport workers. Chantal Wynter, a tram conductor at Preston Depot, disagrees. ``All the comments from passengers on the trams have been positive. People think it's fantastic that someone is finally standing up to Kennett. People have had five years of attacks from this government, and they're fed up.''
There will be further industrial action, possibly including non-collection of fares and timetable disruption. There is more at stake than the conditions of public transport workers. If the Kennett government manages to defeat them and implement the Workplace Relations Act, the flow-on to other industries will be rapid.