Bev-Pak and Caterpillar disputes
It might not be as big or draw as much attention as the MUA dispute last year did, but the picket line outside juice company Bev-Pak at Condell Park in Sydney's west, is just as important for the 70-plus workers and emotions are boiling over. The workers had been on strike and on the picket line for three days last week when management sacked all of them. The workforce, which is about 90 per cent Vietnamese, are casuals on individual contracts. Tensions between the workers and management began to escalate as the workers and their union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) tried to gain improvements in their conditions. Things came to a head after management "ticked off" a worker for taking a sick day because it was not allowed under his individual contract. In spite of being sacked, the workers have not let up in holding the picket line where they request truck drivers not to cross the line. The police have warned them they cannot stop trucks from crossing the picket line. Caterpillar In another dispute, also in Sydney's west, at the Caterpillar factory in Granville which makes earthmoving equipment such as bulldozers, workers have been in a drawn out dispute for the past three years. They have been seeking to negotiate a new enterprise agreement (EBA) since the last one expired three years ago. AMWU organiser, Martin Cartwright, told The Guardian, "They have been battling for quite a while to get a new agreement". However it is a familiar story: management has delayed and frustrated the process because it is wants to force regressive changes onto the workers. The company has tried a secret ballot (which excludes the union from the process) on three occasions, but has been unsuccessful in winning approval for its proposed changes. Caterpillar is trying to introduce 10-hour shifts, four days on and four off, with no penalties for weekend work. The union is seeking a wage increase of 10 per cent. The EBA covers 21 sites around the State, in all: 200 workers statewide. Caterpillar has again been forced back to the negotiating table and meetings have been scheduled for later this week.