The Guardian April 25, 2001


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."

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