Workers sue for right to union agreement

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Workers sue for right to union agreement

Workers at a major truck trailer plant in Victoria, which has refused to agree to a union collective agreement, are suing their employer for allegedly breaking freedom of association laws.

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Workers at a major truck trailer plant in Victoria, which has refused to agree to a union collective agreement, are suing their employer for allegedly breaking freedom of association laws.

If they are successful, the case would have major implications for other employers, including Telstra, which is also refusing to negotiation with its employees’ unions.

The ACTU says the case highlights the need for the Labor Federal Government to bring in its new IR laws quickly to overturn the remnants of WorkChoices, which allow employers to bypass unions even if their employees want union representation.

Stalemate

Workers at Maxitrans Australia Pty Ltd in Ballarat will today (Monday) launch legal action in the Federal Court following a stalemate in their negotiations over a new enterprise agreement.

A group of workers is suing the company over their right to freedom of association and alleged discrimination against union members. The company could incur fines of up to $33,000 if found guilty of a breach of the IR laws governing these issues.

Last month, employees overwhelmingly rejected the company’s offer of a non-union agreement that would strip away job conditions to the bare basics. The deal was voted down in a secret ballot by 239 to 38.

Inferior offer

ACTU president Sharan Burrow said the company’s offer to its Ballarat workers was inferior to the pay and conditions available at Maxitrans’ other plant in Victoria .

She said that the Ballarat employees have for months been seeking to be represented by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union in negotiations with the company but the company has refused to negotiate.

Maxitrans is Australia’s largest manufacturer of truck trailers, and employs about 280 people at Wendouree in Ballarat.

‘The fact that Maxitrans workers have to turn to the Federal Court to protect a fundamental human right - freedom of association -  highlights the need for the Rudd Government to quickly introduce legislation that will scrap the rest of WorkChoices,’ Burrow said.

‘Workers must have genuine collective bargaining rights, protection from unfair dismissal and a strong independent umpire.'

‘The fact that large companies like Maxitrans, Telstra and Rio Tinto are continuing to deny workers' rights shows how important it is for the Rudd Government to bring in new industrial relations laws as soon as possible.’


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