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Date: Wed, 5 Mar 97 23:30:25 CST
From: rich@pencil.gwu.edu (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Aussie Construction Workers Unite Against Mobil /** labr.global: 408.0 **/
** Topic: Aussie Construction Workers Unite Against Mobil **
** Written 10:03 AM Mar 4, 1997 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **
From: Institute for Global Communications <labornews@igc.apc.org> Subject: Aussie Construction Workers Unite Against Mobil

Mobil's use of workplace act stopped

By Dave Mizon, in ICG Labour News
4 March 1997

MELBOURNE -- At a mass meeting held at Williamstown Hall on February 14, more than 400 workers, members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Electrical Trades Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, agreed on a settlement in the long-running dispute with Mobil-Toyo.

The dispute began when antagonisms between the construction company, John Hollands, and engineering contractor Toyo and Mobil came to a head over the construction of Mobil's new catalytic cracker.

In November, John Hollands was terminated as building contractor, and the existing work force was paid out. Mobil and Toyo opened up discussions with unions, proposing a site agreement inferior to the existing agreement and making it clear that they would employ an entirely new work force.

Mobil also began proceedings under section 166 of the old Industrial Relations Act, seeking damages against the unions through the civil courts.

On January 1, Mobil was the first company to use the new industrial relations legislation. If successful, the company would have been able to bar industrial action of any kind for six months.

Despite the threat of legal action, Mobil and Toyo were pushed back to the negotiating table by the tremendous solidarity shown by the construction workers of the three unions. At no time were the companies able to get more than 20 to 30 scabs on a site that once employed 400 workers.

The settlement, overwhelmingly endorsed at the February 14 meeting, involves a compromise.

The construction contract has been awarded to four separate contract firms which employ core work crews. However, these workers must be permanent, so the site is not casualised. The rest of the work force required at the site will be made up of sacked workers from the original crew, so 70% of the new work force will be made up of ex-John Holland workers.

The company has agreed to drop all legal action, and the new site agreement involves no loss in conditions and an increase in wages.

The organiser for the CFMEU at the site, Dave Noonan, told Green Left Weekly that since the election of the Liberal government there is a "trend amongst employers to litigate rather than negotiate".

The outcome of this dispute "must make Mobil and the other big companies think long and hard before using this legislation. The legislation may financially cripple union organisations, but it can't cow a work force, and that's who the companies have to deal with on a day to day basis."