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Boeing workers strike against unionist's sacking

Latest News in Boeing dispute
Boeing won an injunction in the Federal Court that could make rank and file members of the AMWU liable for company's losses (Boeing claims about $1m a day). A trial on May 7 (with May 8 and 9 set aside if needed) will hear Boeing's case for damages.

Union Solidarity coordinator Dave Kerin was served with an order by the Workplace Ombudsman to produce Union Solidarity documents relating to the Boeing dispute by the 8th of May. If Dave fails to comply he faces up to 6 months in prison. We need to throw all of our support behind the Boeing workers. Read Union Solidarity report on legal action.

by Gary Holiday & Margarita Windisch

On April 9, some 700 workers employed at the Port Melbourne-based Boeing subsidiary Hawker de Havilland went on strike. They were protesting against the company’s April 7 sacking of an Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) member without going through the agreed dispute-settlement procedure. The HDH plant makes parts for Boeing’s new 787 airliner.

Download and print leaflet about the strike

The striking workers have defied an April 9 industrial commission order against industrial action, and an April 11 Federal Court ruling ordering a return to work. Their defiance of these orders could lead to the strikers being hit with hefty individual fines.

The AMWU could also be hit with fines of up to $1.3 million per day if its officials are in any way involved, or are seen to be in support of the striking workers

Boeing management alleges that the sacked worker practised “irregular” time-recordings. However, according to co-workers, the swipe card time-keeping system has been fraught with problems ever since it was commissioned and has been responsible for some 11,000 errors in the past year. The problem had been raised with management on numerous occasions by union delegates without results.

Workers at the plant believe that Boeing wants to use the current dispute in a broader campaign to replace its unionised work force with non-union casual workers and “independent” contractors.

The company has been trying to sow confusion among the strikers by sending letters to their homes encouraging them to return to work and blaming the AMWU for the impasse in negotiations. Boeing has also denounced the Union Solidarity group for backing the strike with a 24-hour picket of the HDH plant.

The workers have held regular report-back meetings on the picket line and at an onsite mass meeting on April 18 they voted overwhelmingly to continue the strike until Boeing is prepared to negotiate with their union.

Participants at an April 17 Your Rights at Work forum, organised by the ACTU and Victorian Trades Hall Council, pledged to support the struggle at the HDH plant after a delegation of striking workers addressed the meeting.

  • If you can assist with funds, food or picket support contact Union Solidarity.
  • Come to the solidarity concert to support the Boeing workers: 11am Sunday May 3 at the Wharf Road Community Assembly, Port Melbourne
  • Send the workers a solidarity message
From: Australian News, Green Left Weekly issue #747 23 April 2008.

2 Com:

Peter Boyle | April 27, 2008

Dear Comrades

Good news! At 4pm today, a mass meeting of the striking workers at
Boeing Port Melbourne ended their "wildcat" strike in victory! The
sacked unionist was reinstated and all legal action by the company
against workers, their union and Union Solidarity was dropped.

Thank you very much for your messages of solidarity.

Workers of the world unite!

Peter Boyle | April 27, 2008

A bit more detail has emerged about the Boeing workers' victory.

Even though the agreement did not stipulate Boeing should
unconditionally reinstate the sacked worker - he has to file for “unfair dismissal” - the condition of this process in this particular case are favourable to the worker, according to AMWU state secretary Steve Dargavel.

Boeing also withdrew all legal proceedings against all workers and the union and is supposed to advise the Workplace Ombudsman to halt proceedings against Union Solidarity. Issues such as the employment of contractors and proposed redundancies (which were the real issues behind the strike) will have to be dealt with within the guidelines of the EBA agreement.

Still it was a victory for the workers under difficult conditions.

I imagine a few others are also breathing sighs of relief as this dispute was drawing attention to all the anti-union laws which still remain on the books despite Rudd's promise to "rip up" Work Choices.

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