Join Date: May 2001
Location: Somewhere over the rainbow
Trust fund would end car industry strike: union
Workers in a dispute which threatens to paralyse the nation's car industry would return to work tomorrow if a trust fund for entitlements was set up, the Australian Manufacturers Workers Union said today.
The union has called on major car makers to convene a meeting in a bid to end the industrial dispute at Adelaide exhaust manufacturer Walker Australia which has halted most vehicle production.
Only Mitsubishi will be building cars today because of an 11-day strike at Adelaide exhaust producer Walker Australia.
Holden, Ford and Toyota have all been forced to stop their assembly lines, leaving about 10,000 workers idle.
Talks between the AMWU and Walker Australia have so far failed to resolve the dispute over workers' entitlements and the company will take action in the Federal Court today seeking damages and penalties.
But AMWU national secretary Doug Cameron said court action was not the solution and he called on the four major car makers to bring the parties together.
"They've got a vested interest in this and they should play a role in attempting to resolve this dispute," Mr Cameron told ABC radio.
Asked about the idea, Walker Australia managing director Alex Drysdale said he would support anything that would bring a resolution.
Mr Cameron said workers voted to abide by recommendations of an independent arbitrator which included setting up the trust fund.
He said the company had already agreed to the trust fund to protect workers' entitlements under an enterprise agreement which had taken effect late last year.
"There is an agreement in place that specifies a trust fund and our members believe a trust fund is the best way to go," Mr Cameron told Channel Seven's Sunrise program.
The arbitrator had recommended the fund be implemented immediately and reviewed later, Mr Cameron said.
"The mediator proposed that the company implement a trust fund immediately, that in January next year we review the operation of the trust fund," he said.
"That would solve the problem and our members would go back to work tomorrow."
Mr Cameron said he disagreed with Walker Australia management that a government scheme to protect workers' entitlements was adequate.
"If you ask these workers at Walker who do they trust - do they trust (Workplace Relations Minister) Tony Abbott or do they trust an independent trust fund - they'll go for the trust fund every time," Mr Cameron said.
He said the legislation was really only for companies that collapsed without having enough money put away for workers' entitlements, not for multi-nationals like Walker Australia.
"This scheme that the federal government has put in is really for companies that go bust and have not had the position to put away the money in the past," he said.
"This company is an international multi-national. They have got the resources to put this money aside."
But Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive officer Peter Sturrock said the government legislation was sufficient.
"There are 24,000 jobs at risk if this strike continues," he said.
"The issue is about the entitlements being protected and they're protected under the government legislation today."
Mr Sturrock said the employees had to get back to work to ensure the longevity of Australia's automotive industry.
"There's $5 billion worth of automotive exports at risk here and the long term viability of manufacturing in this country," he said.
You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen. It said, 'Parking Fine.'So that was nice.