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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 06-10-02, 10:45 AM Thread Starter
Mr. Embargo
Join Date: May 2001
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AUS: Car industry layoffs loom


AUSTRALIA'S car industry could grind to a halt this week as a stalemate continues between BHP Steel and unions picketing its Victorian Western Port plant.

Because of the dispute, the four major car makers are running short of the steel needed to keep their 12,000 workers on the job.

BHP Steel has even been resorting to helicopters to break the picket and carry steel out of the plant.

But the 2600 tonnes of steel that has been airlifed out of the site is only a fraction of the usual 50,000 tonnes needed every week.

The protest looks set to continue into its third week, with BHP refusing to talk to the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union and the Electrical Trades Union until the picket is lifted.

Holden, Ford, Mitsubishi and Toyota claim the steel shortage will force them to start shutting down production from the middle of this week.

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott has accused the AMWU of sabotaging the car industry.

"I mean they claim to want job security, how can you protect job security by repeatedly closing the industry down," he told Channel 10.

"This picket, which is currently threatening to cripple the industry, is not a legal picket."

The two unions insist the picket is legal and claim BHP is trying to use "political and legal pressure" to end the dispute.

"I guess the disappointing thing for us is that the company won't talk to us," said ETU state secretary Dean Mighell.
"Disputes are never resolved by not talking."

BHP Coated Steel president Col Weatherstone said talks with the unions would resume once trucks were able to move in and out of the plant.

"Unfortunately, the people who are engaging in illegal activities at the picket line are putting themselves at considerable personal risk," he said.

About 280 maintenance workers at BHP's Hastings plant have been on strike since May 21 over job security and a pay rise.

BHP last week took action in the Federal Court and Australian Industrial Relations Commission over the dispute.

And Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Holden are also seeking permission to sue the union for damages.

Daily Telegraph

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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 06-12-02, 10:37 AM Thread Starter
Mr. Embargo
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BHP's steely resolve

By Nicole Strahan and Kristine Gough

STEEL giant BHP yesterday signalled its determination that a strike by maintenance workers would not bring Australia's car industry to a halt by breaking the picket line surrounding its Hastings steel plant.

Under the cover of darkness early yesterday more than 100 police on horses, motorbikes and on foot removed union picketers from a gate to allow 20 trucks to pick up steel urgently needed to avert stand-downs at all car manufacturers.

BHP management again increased the tension outside the Hastings plant by attempting to serve writs on 12 members of the Electrical Trades Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, some of whom were still on picket lines outside four gates into the compound.

The action was condemned by union leaders who met with BHP representatives in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission yesterday to broker an end to the 23-day stand-off.

One of the 20-page writs citing the unionists for contempt for defying a Federal Court order to allow trucks free access to the plant was dropped at the feet of ETU member Stephen Crawford.

"Once I have had some sleep and spoken to the union, then I will decided what to do," the father of four said.

"There are 12 of us, so I would imagine we will defend ourselves as a group."

On the 23rd day of the picket protesting plans to outsource maintenance work at the rolling steel plant southeast of Melbourne, police swooped shortly after midnight to clear 60 picketers from the plant's No3 Gate.

But only seven of the 20 trucks that gained entry left the plant yesterday, carrying 400 tonnes of steel.

The company remained coy about when more trucks would attempt to enter or leave the site and a spokesman would not rule out another police action to allow more trucks through.

One police officer and one picketer, who was knocked by a horse, sustained minor injuries in the action.

ETU Victorian secretary Dean Mighell condemned the action as "gutter industrial relations".

"The police have allowed themselves to be used as taxpayer-funded strike breakers," Mr Mighell said.

He said ETU members would return to work if BHP allowed an independent chairman to conduct a review of the plant's maintenance division that would include the issue of outsourcing.

AMWU national secretary Doug Cameron said it was a sad day in the history of the company.

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