Victory at Joy
After toughing out a grinding six-month struggle, workers at Joy Mining Machinery at Moss Vale, south of Sydney, have gone back to work with their jobs intact. They were locked out of the plant after they rejected an attempt by the company to replace an expiring agreement with four separate deals, part of an attempt to weaken the bargaining capacity of on-site unions. They returned to work last Monday. In its decision, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission awarded the 63 workers involved in the dispute a 12 percent rise over the next three years, compared to management's offer of five percent over two years. During the dispute Joy filed actions in the NSW Supreme Court to allow the company to take legal action against the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU), the workers and their families. This was in addition to its Supreme Court injunctions against the AMWU, Australian Workers' Union and the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, and its District Court proceedings against the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's solidarity action in support of the workers. A picket by the Joy workers and their supporters from other unions and the local community, was maintained outside the plant for the entire dispute. The company brought in scabs to replace the workers as it tried to force them back into the Industrial Relations Commission to terminate the agreement. If it had succeeded Joy workers would have reverted to basic award provisions, resulting in the loss of around 30 above-award conditions. The list of issues to be arbitrated on by the Commission was reduced to six. Part of the settlement was that all legal action cease and that the scabs be removed. The AMWU said the outcome is a victory for the workers, considering what the company tried to impose — four separate agreements with four different expiry dates and the loss of many conditions. It was no easy easy victory. A small semi-rural community was scarred by the dispute. The workers were without incomes for a large part of the year, surviving on personal savings, the contributions of families and friends and strike fund payments. Now there is one collective agreement that is underpinned by the award, basic conditions of employment have been maintained, and there are no individual contracts.