Industrial action in the Australian motor industry may not be over as General
Motors’ affiliate Holden and auto unions are involved in round-the-clock negotiations
to avert the threat of rolling strikes at the car assembly facility in South
Australia and engine plant in Victoria, writes Mike Duffy.

A notice of industrial action, served on the car maker by its 7000 workers
two weeks ago, takes effect from today (Tuesday).

Unless a new enterprise bargaining agreement is reached, workers can stage
random strikes and impose overtime bans.

Workers want pay increases of 24% over the next three years plus redundancy
packages of three weeks’ pay plus $1000 for every year of service.

A meeting which went into the small hours of yesterday morning (Tuesday morning
South Australia time) reached agreement on flexible working arrangement required
by the company to match production with demand.

An agreement to set up a joint management-union committee to oversee the implementation
of change to workplace practices was taken to Holden’s board of directors by

A fresh round of talks were proceeding last night (Tuesday) to resolve the
pay component of the agreement.

An Australian Manufacturing Workers Union official said: “Ford has given
its workers 15% pay increases over the next three years, so we believe Holden,
which is more profitable, should be able to do better than that.

“We are well on the way towards reaching a new enterprise bargaining agreement,
but the final negotiation on pay could be the difficult part.'”

The official said the union hoped to be in a position to present a report to
a meeting of 80 shop stewards on Thursday.

“The consensus of shop stewards will dictate the formal recommendation
which will be presented to a mass meeting of workers,” he said.

A Holden spokesman rejected suggestions that the strike at New South Wales-based
steering column components maker Tristar, which cost the company nine days’
production, plus the failure to reach an early resolution to the workplace agreement
could prompt General Motors to rescind a decision to build a V6 engine plant
in Australia.

She said: “Building work on the engine plant at Port Melbourne is proceeding
on schedule.

“There is no suggestion Australia could lose the plant.”

The Tristar strike cost Holden 5,150 cars worth $A170 million.

The car maker cannot keep pace with demand for the Commodore – Australia’s
best selling car – and exports to the Middle East and elsewhere could be
held up by further stoppages.

Further industrial action would disrupt efforts to schedule additional shifts
at weekends plus overtime to recover some of the lost production.

Holden has recently increased daily production to 580 cars.

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