Seven
thousand car workers have served notice on Holden of rolling strikes from the
middle of August, writes Mike Duffy.

Mass meetings in two states saw union members vote that no further negotiations
would take place until the company moved from what workers claim is “a
hard-line position”.

Eight hundred day shift workers at Holden’s engine plant in Melbourne, Victoria,
did not return to work after an official stop-work meeting. The afternoon shift
at the plant also walked off the job one and a half hours early.

The walkout cost General Motors’ Australian affiliate about 300 engines although
the company said it would not affect production of the Commodore, the nation’s
best selling car.

Workers at Holden’s Adelaide, South Australia, car assembly complex returned
to work immediately after a lunchtime meeting.

However, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary John Camillo
said: “The mood of the meeting made it clear to Holden that if there is
no resolution to the enterprise agreement negotiations production would be disrupted.”

The AMWU is the lead union pressing a log of claims with an 18% wage rise the
central element of the three year agreement.

The current agreement expires on August 15. Any action before then would be
in breach of the federal Workplace Relations Act.


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Under the Act, workers are obliged to give formal 72 hour notice of strike
action.

Ford Australia has recently set a precedent by giving its workforce a 15% increase
over the three year period.

A Holden statement said the company was “seeking a positive outcome that
will secure the viability of the business, offer growth and enhance long-term
job security for employees.

“A majority of the matters under review in the bargaining process have
been successfully worked through, although there are important issues still
requiring resolution,” the statement said.

“A central issue is the imperative for Holden to maintain a flexible approach
to the management of its business, which has been the key to the success achieved
by the company in recent years.”

Union negotiators reported to workers their frustration that the company wanted
agreement to introduce new shift arrangements without specifying how they will
work.

“They want a blank cheque on flexibility, but at the same time they are
refusing to talk pay increases.

“The unions and the management are simply miles apart on this fundamental
issue.”

Workers at both Holden plants are expected to return to their jobs on Monday,
although they want further report-back meetings in both states.

Union negotiations with Mitsubishi Motors are progressing well and are expected
to be finalised shortly.

Toyota is not due to negotiate its EBA until next year although the car maker
is keen to come into line with Ford, Holden and Mitsubishi and sign an agreement
early.


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