Mobil's scabby plot exposed
by Marcus Browning Last week's revelations that the Mobil oil company has secretly had non- union strikebreakers trained to replace maintenance workers at its Port Stanvac refinery in Adelaide, is further confirmation that the 1998 attack on the Maritime Union, including the use of scab labour, was the example that all union-busting employers were meant to follow. As with the MUA offensive, Mobil has the full compliance and support of the Federal Government. Said Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott after Mobil's plot was exposed: "I think that companies are entitled to manage their own workforces in ways which are consistent with their judgement of the economic interests of the company." Denials of the plan by the company cut no ice with unions representing Mobil workers. Mobil has been trying to spark a dispute for months in enterprise bargaining negotiations with its maintenance workers, as part of a company push to cut pay and conditions. Management wants to increase the contracting out of jobs and to reduce maintenance staff numbers, from 31 down to 12. The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) has information that the scab contingent has been secretly trained in Sydney, and that the company plans to fly them in by helicopter during any dispute and lock out. The union also claims that the strikebreakers were recruited by John Skillecorn, the founder of the American International School. The school, a joint venture between Malaysian and Australian investors, is an elite facility at Epping, in Sydney's northern suburbs, with classes from kindergarten to year 12. Most of its students are the children of parents from the US who are working in Australia on a short-term basis. John Skillecorn is the executive director of the company which set up the school in January last year. Skillecorn admitted to recruiting non-union workers for a "client" but denies involvement in training would-be replacements for petrochemical maintenance workers at Port Stanvac. This is despite the newspaper advertisement with an American International School contact phone number, asking for applicants to train as petrochemical maintenance employees. Mobil's maintenance manager told unions during negotiations, when asked about plans to fly in strikebreakers, "I will not lie, but I will not answer your questions." Management has succeeded in stalling on an agreement with maintenance workers, from last February to April 16, when their current agreement expired. The expiration allows them to take to take industrial action under the Workplace Relations Act. Asked on ABC radio's AM program about the extent of Mobil's plans, AMWU National Secretary, Doug Cameron, said that the union had been made aware that the company had put four teams of multi-skilled workers together who were ready to be flown in by helicopter straight after Easter, and that they were trained at a location somewhere in Sydney. "It was being done covertly and it was designed to break the resistance of the workers on the job", said Mr Cameron. "This has got many similarities to what happened in the MUA dispute. You know, this sort of pattern of huge aggression from companies." He responded to Tony Abbott's description of the strikebreaking allegations as "union paranoia" by saying, "I don't know why you would describe a covert plan to replace the workforce at the Mobil plant as paranoia."