Feltex Workers Defeat AWA’s, Win Collective
Textile Clothing & Footwear Union of Australia (Vic Branch)
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For immediate release: Thursday 21 December 2006
Feltex Workers Defeat AWA’s & Win Collective Union Agreement
The TCFUA has claimed victory in its drawn-out dispute over carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst’s attempt to force over 300 Feltex workers to sign AWAs with reduced rights and conditions in order to keep their jobs. The Union and the company have reached agreement for a collective Union agreement, with workers transferring to the new company with their entitlements protected.
TCFUA State Secretary, Michele O'Neil, said the resolution to the dispute shows the only protection workers have from John Howard’s WorkChoice laws is membership of a Union.
“What we’ve seen is over 300 resilient workers sticking together, staying strong and through their Union, fighting-off multiple attempts to use John Howard’s IR laws to strip workers and their families of their rights and conditions. The system is now inherently biased against workers, but Australian workers can still join Unions and fight to keep their rights. This is the best defence Australians have against WorkChoices,” Ms O’Neil said.
Godfrey Hirst had twice sought an order from the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) stating that the AWAs offered as a condition of employment were ‘acceptable alternative employment’. Both times, despite ‘WorkChoices’, the AIRC agreed with the TCFUA and ruled that there were key factors that make the AWAs inferior to the collective agreement.
In the face of legal proceedings initiated by the TCFUA in the Federal Court and growing Union and community concern, Godfrey Hirst finally returned to the negotiating table with the TCFUA and scrapped its controversial AWA agenda just days before the Christmas break. The new Union collective agreement was endorsed unanimously yesterday evening by workers at mass meetings held at Feltex’s Melbourne factories.
“Workers’ determination to oppose AWAs and protect their conditions means the Feltex workers and their families can now enjoy the Christmas break confident that their rights and entitlements will continue to be protected in the new year by a Union collective agreement,” Ms O’Neil said.