Workers from the Kennon Auto factory in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Preston went on strike in early July. After being denied a pay rise for more than 3 years these low paid workers decided to stop work and set up a picket line outside the plant.
The employer tried to bully the workers into signing a sub-standard agreement that undermined many Award conditions. Incredibly, the boss even tried to insert a clause into the agreement which said that “the company will decide if a worker is genuinely sick”! Any absence that is considered ‘unauthorised’ could lead to the withholding of pay, disciplinary action or dismissal.
During the strike the company, who supply parts to the car manufacturer Toyota, often relied on the police to break the picket line and escort scab trucks through the gates. On several occasions the workers and their supporters responded by rallying dozens more people to the site. When this occurred the police were forced to retreat and the scab trucks were turned away. These examples show that the best response to police and employer thuggery is mass action.
After 3 weeks the employer was forced to negotiate with Textile, Clothing & Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) who represents the workers. With Toyota quickly running out of parts and the workers showing no indication that they were about to give up, the employer was forced to concede to all of the union’s demands.
The workers retuned to work in high spirits after winning a collective agreement that protected and improved many conditions. They also won a 4% pay rise and $1000 back pay. Many Socialist Party members visited the picket line and provided practical, moral and political support. We send greetings to the Kennon Auto workers and congratulate them on a job well done. A victory for one is a victory for all!