The Guardian August 1, 2001


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.

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