Solidarity beats back goons
Scabs and private security goons had to sleep rough in the Western Australian outback after attempts to break a picket line were beaten off by solidarity between miners and construction workers. The high-stakes stand-off is unfolding at Yandi, about 150 kilometres north of Newman in the Pilbara, where miners with BHP contractor Henry Walker Eltin are resisting the imposition of another round of AWAs (non-union contracts), backed by big financial inducements. Less than a fortnight after BHP was ordered by the Industrial Relations Commission to pay equal wages and conditions to union members, the company has still not abandoned its goal and is re- fighting the issue through its remote-site contractor. For the first time in WA, miners overwhelmingly rejected AWAs when Henry Walker Eltin put them on the table last month. Only 15 percent of the workforce accepted the carrot of increased earnings. A picket line was thrown around the mine and residential camp after workers learned the company was flying in Global Security guards, many with military training, to lock them down. Henry Walker Eltin moved the workers on AWAs out of the camp the same day, bunking them down at nearby Hammersley Iron, alongside security guards and management contractors. However, Hammersley construction workers demanded the removal of "scabs" from their camp and those preparing for the assault on Yandi were eventually turfed out. The dispute turned nasty the next day when the company's force used vehicles to try and smash its way through the picket of AWU, AMWU and CEPU members. "It's Patrick's all over again", ACTU organiser Will Tracey reported from the front line. "We've got un-badged goons here in the standard blue overalls. At least two picketers were hit by a car when they first tried to break through. "This is a very remote site and we are worried about the safety of our people. We are a long way from anywhere and a long way from anybody." The 14 police had been flown to Yandi from Newman, Karatha and Port Hedland stations. Some of the tensions were relieved when miners returned to work where they will continue their industrial campaign through regular stop work meetings. They are demanding pay equity and the right of new starters to decide whether they are employed on AWAs or a collective agreement. The employer insists it will only employ those who accept non-union individual contracts. "They have tried the old trick of buying people off and it didn't work", Mr Tracey said. "This whole dispute is about the contractor's refusal to recognise equal pay and freedom of choice. That's all our people are holding out for. "It is a very important issue for workers everywhere. The people on the job have been fantastic but the company is playing hardball and we need help from the broader union movement." Miners and supporters held a rally outside Henry Walker Eltin's Perth office last Monday morning.