Australia - Strikers obey edict to go back : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

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Strikers obey edict to go back

VICTORIAN power supplies were assured last night despite the continued deadlock between unions and Yallourn Energy, after the Government invoked emergency powers to order striking unionists back to work.

The Bracks Government was forced to exercise the powers after all-night talks failed because Yallourn Energy would not agree to a mediator's recommendations. Unions reluctantly agreed to abide by the Government's return-to-work order, with Electrical Trades Union secretary Dean Mighell accusing the company of lying, and calling the Government's order "horribly unfair".

But power restrictions will stay in force until at least tomorrow evening, as generators in the Latrobe Valley near Melbourne take days to power up.

Mr Mighell called on the Government to put the company under scrutiny, because the workers had borne the brunt of Premier Steve Bracks's order.

"These boys copped the umpire's decision, the company walked away and I can't tell them why it happened. I can't even look them in the eye. Believe me, they don't want to go back to work," he said.

But Yallourn Energy chief executive Mike Johnston said he was "delighted". He had rejected the mediator's recommendations because they fell short of the company's needs.

He said the company wanted security of workplace arrangements in order to invest $500 million in infrastructure.

Mediator Neil Pope said he was "surprised and angry" that the company had rejected his recommendations at 7am yesterday, after a 23-hour negotiating session.

The case returned yesterday to the Industrial Relations Commission, where the company is arguing the commission should end the bargaining period and arbitrate. The case was adjourned until next week.

Mr Johnston said he would abide by an arbitrated outcome. The company had rejected the mediator's recommendations because they did not include a dispute-resolution procedure, left a union log of claims unresolved and carried the risk of an illegal "closed shop" for the contractors the firm wants to use.

"There was an open-ended financial liability, an open-ended legal liability, and no method in the document to resolve these issues," Mr Johnston said.

But Mr Pope said the company had raised none of those issues during the 60 hours of negotiation. Mr Bracks also criticised the company, saying: "These are not big matters that need to be resolved."


A report on TV 'Good Morning Australia' just now made the interesting point that privatization has brought little benefit to the Yallourn Valley, where 18% adult unemployment forces many families apart. This is a huge issue with battle lines being drawn. It's a fight for what kind of Australia we want. 'Career Security' is a key thing...

Another Story Link on same

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (, February 07, 2000


The Age Newspaper Editorial follows;

Bracks acts, just in time
Tuesday 8 February 2000

THE crunch in the power industry dispute came for the Bracks Government yesterday and it is with some relief that it can be said that the Government responded appropriately. This dispute, 10 months in the making, has been far from a shining example of leadership and wise management, from the hard-line union position, to the intractable attitude of the employer Yallourn Energy, to the Government's early confused and half-hearted attempts at intervention. This is not to suggest that there should never have been industrial action at Yallourn, either in the form of the strike by workers or the threat of a lock-out by the employer; such action is the norm in a system of enterprise bargaining, where both sides are required to play it tough. But in an essential industry, that behavior needs some moderation. Both unions and companies in the power sector must understand that they are in a special situation, with special obligations to the rest of the community and the state economy. This is where the State Government comes in. The past five days have demonstrated just how important it is for the Government to be something more than an interested observer.

Once the Premier, Mr Steve Bracks, imposed a deadline on the Government-sponsored mediation proceedings, the participants in the dispute seemed to find a new focus. And yesterday, with the deadline passed and no agreement reached, Mr Bracks did the only thing he could do and invoked the Electricity Industry Act to bring about a return to work. Regrettably, restrictions will continue, something that perhaps could have been avoided had the Government acted earlier, once it became likely that the power supply could be affected by the dispute. However, Mr Bracks is to be commended all the same for his resolute stance. The failure of the weekend mediation, conducted by the former Labor minister Mr Neil Pope, is also to be regretted. A question mark remains above Yallourn Energy and its commitment to the negotiations. The final proposal by Mr Pope was agreed to by union officials but rejected by the company, and Mr Pope had some harsh things to say about the company's conduct late in the proceedings.

The company has every right under the law to refer the dispute for arbitration in the Industrial Relations Commission, but it would not be acceptable for the state's power supply to become a bargaining chip in a wider negotiation. The objective must now be to reach a settlement, not to secure total victory. The economic viability of this state is at stake and that is too important for either power unions or any power company to jeopardise.


I doubt the workers consider themselves socialist. They are workers who are making a stand against a system hell-bent on making them itinerant transients in their own place, dropping their community investments and making dislocation a fact. The big boys say that's reality of level playing fields. I think you'll find considerable sympathy for the workers exists in Australia. This is only just beginning ... lotsa second thoughts about privatisations of vital industries and infrastructure

Regards from Down Under

-- Pieter (, February 07, 2000.

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