The Guardian July 30, 2003


Smorgon Steel workers
More than 150 days and still going strong

Striking Electrical Trade Union (ETU) members at Smorgon Steel in 
Laverton, Victoria, have set a record of more than 150 days on the picket 
line.

The 22 workers remain defiant in their campaign for the 36-hour week, a 
condition that is currently enjoyed by every other contract electrician in 
Victoria.

The workers, many of whom had never been involved in an industrial dispute 
before, decided to set up the picket on February 24 after repeated attempts 
by the company to undermine their enterprise bargaining agreement 
negotiations by bringing in outside labour.

ETU organiser Gerry Glover said the Smorgon family prided themselves on 
being community minded yet refused to give their workers family friendly 
conditions.

"The Smorgons have appealed to this community [Footscray] to bail out our 
struggling football team yet they are not prepared to lead by example in 
the area of generosity or fairness by giving these workers the 36-hour 
week.

"Many of the blokes on this picket line are paid up members of the 
Footscray Football Club. Will the Smorgons stop hurting them and their 
families and show a little bit of community spirit on this issue?"

Striking worker and ETU shop steward Ron Goodfellow said the workers were 
proud of their record on the picket line but would like the dispute to be 
resolved as quickly as possible.

"The guys are all pretty committed and willing to hang in as long as it 
takes but we hope it is over soon."

Mr Goodfellow said being involved in the dispute had made him more 
community minded.

"I would like to thank the general public and other trade unionists who 
have supported us. We have regular visits from members of the Australian 
Manufacturing Workers Union, and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and 
Energy Union.

"Two guys from the Geelong Sub-Committee bring us a couple of red gum 
railway sleepers a week which we cut up for firewood. One of the boys who 
was with us on the picket line early on but found another job still comes 
and cooks us dinner every night. Another ETU member from Nestli turned up 
the other night with a big box of chocolates.

"Being on a picket line changes your outlook. I was always a member of the 
union but not very active. Now I will always support other unionists when 
they have a picket line going", Mr Goodfellow said.

Back to index page