The need to change industrial relations laws was a focus for speakers at a recent rally marking a year on the protest line at Longford, in what has become one of Australia’s longest running disputes.
It may have been preaching to the converted, but ACTU Secretary Sally McManus focused the attention of a crowd of about 500 supporters of former UGL maintenance workers at Esso’s Longford gas plant, on the need to change industrial relations laws, to outlaw the manipulation of workplace agreements to the detriment of an existing workforce.
At the centre of the dispute is the right for workers to negotiate their own terms and conditions, with UGL having arranged an agreement to be voted for by five casual workers in Western Australia, and then applying it to the Victorian workforce, on a take it or leave it basis.
The workers, some of whom have worked on Esso’s platforms for more than 40 years, are members of the Electrical Trades Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union and the Australian Workers’ Union.
Their dispute, which includes a round the clock protest outside Esso’s gas plant, is more than 365 days old, making it the longest industrial dispute in Australia for the past four decades.
“Two hundred and thirty maintenance workers had to go on strike for a year just to keep the conditions they already had,” said AWU secretary Ben Davis from the back of a truck. (Source: Gippsland Times)