EXCLUSIVE: AUSTRALIA: GM's Holden workers vote to strike

By just-auto.com editorial team | 27 July 2001

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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