Police target Victorian unionists
Craig Johnston, the Secretary of the Victorian Division of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), the union's President John Speight and four other unionists have been arrested and charged with riot and affray, criminal damage and aggravated burglary. If found guilty they face jail sentences and disqualification from holding office in a trade union. The charges are in relation to a dispute involving Johnson Tiles and the labour hire company Skilled Engineering. The dispute began when Johnson Tiles sacked 29 maintenance workers and replaced them with scab labour supplied by Skilled Engineering. The sacked workers had spent weeks on the picket line struggling for their jobs to be reinstated when the alleged violence occurred. Skilled Engineering is a subsidiary of a large transnational corporation. It had callously sacked the workers and hired the scabs on lower wages and conditions to boost its profits. The company's action is just one of a growing number of violent actions against workers who are laid off, subjected to police harassment while on picket lines or are cheated of their entitlements. The company managements are not arrested or charged and do not face jail sentences for their criminal acts against workers. The charges against the six unionists relate to an incident in which around 30 people allegedly forced their way into Skilled Engineering and caused up to $100,000 worth of damage. There is a strong political motive behind the arrest of the unionists and the publicity that they have received. If the police are successful with their charges against the six unionists, one of Victoria's leading trade unions stands to lose two militant, left trade union officials. The only people to gain from this will be the employers and the conservative political forces. A fund-raiser in support of the six unionists is being held on Friday, August 17 at 7.30 pm at the Collingwood Town Hall, Hoddle Street, Collingwood. Light food and great solidarity music will be provided. The entry fee is $20.00 or $50.00 Solidarity Price. For tickets or a speaker contact 0419 747 757 or 0425 784 819.