Cheryl Sings the Heinemann Electric Blues

[Update : As far as bad bosses go you don’t get much worse than Heinemann Electrics. Heinemann have forced their workers on to the picket line by refusing to negotiate a decent agreement or to pay them for a whole week’s work. Show our brothers and sisters at Heinemann that they aren’t standing alone. Come to a solidarity breakfast on the picket line at 821 Springvale Rd, Mulgrave at 8.00am on Wednesday, 13th September 2006. You can also donate to the fighting fund for this dispute. Donations are being collected at the picket, or can be left with Linda or Jacqui at the ETU office at 516-520 Swanston St Carlton South. Receipts for donations can also be issued via the ETU office… BYO vegeburgers and sausages!]

Singing the Heinemann Electric Blues
by Cheryl Cemeljic
Saturday September 09, 2006

    Australians all let us rejoice; for we shall work for free?

    Presently I am spending my days standing outside Heinemann Electric Pty Ltd, the company that my mother has worked in for 18 years, my father and husband for 3 years, and though I left early this year, I was employed there for 13 years, working with my mother and husband in the Slegers Products division. Why am I standing on the outside of these gates? After months of workers and management negotiating an EBA, things came to a standstill when John HoWARd’s IR laws came into effect, and the company backflipped on many of their negotiated clauses, expecting no resistance. An imminent signing by all parties was looking promising, until the point where the company decided instead to offer a very different EBA than the one negotiated.

    To try to be heard in a hopeless situation and bring management back to the negotiating table, it was decided to apply a minimal amount of industrial pressure by putting a ban on overtime, and to choose one day only of strike action. Currently the company operates under a policy of voluntary overtime, though they are now claiming that the overtime hours are part of their normal continuous hours (bull!). While not expecting to be paid for the day of strike action, the company threatened that all employees refusing to do “voluntary?” overtime would not be paid for their normal hours of work either. It was advised on Tuesday, 22 August 2006, that employees would not be paid while an overtime ban was effective, and it wasn’t until Thursday, 24 August 2006, that this was proven with pay receipts. A minimum of 3 working days must be given of intended industrial action, so for 5 days normal hours were worked, and for more than 40 employees those 5 days have still not been paid.

    More than half the people effected have never been asked to work overtime by the company prior to the individual interviews held by Richard Ross on 22 August, 2006.

    This has been allowed to occur because the new interpretation of the law is that a company is not obliged to pay employees during industrial action, always interpreted previously as industrial “strike” action. This creative interpretation was advised to the company by Freehills, the lawyers who helped draft the WorkChoice laws, who initially claimed the clause was “overlooked” and the company found it themselves, but finally had to admit they lead the company to it. While the Industrial Relations Commission agreed the company should pay the employees, it seemed to have no power to force this action.

    Heinemann Electric is a national company, with its base of operations in Mulgrave, Victoria, and sales branches in each state.

    As a further slap in the face to the Australian people, the parent company in South Africa, CBI, which is part of the very successful Reunert group which also owns Mitsubishi Electric and GE Electric, refuses to guarantee the accrued entitlements of local workers. The only people who will give these workers anything if this poorly managed company goes belly-up is the Australian taxpayer through the Gears Scheme. We are supposed to be a first world country, but John HoWARd’s new WorkChoice laws are making it possible for third world ideas to become our practice.

    So if you pass me on Springvale Road in Mulgrave, and you’ll recognise me as the waving lunatic, please have a heart. I could be you one day. The only choices left are to give up all negotiating rights and accept a one-sided EBA; remain inside the factory working, not being paid; or take it to the streets and fight. Which will you choose?

    I would like to personally thank some very valued supporters who are helping boost morale in some very tough times. This list is growing daily, so please forgive me if you are not mentioned here.

    To those who wave and toot their horns in support, your voice is greatly appreciated. To the many people who have stopped to ask us why we are there, and have offered their words of encouragement and support, especially the beautiful lady who bought us coffee, thank you.

    Thank you to the builder’s union for our very handy shelter which was very timely, and to the many unions who are standing by us and providing much support and encouragement. To the fantastic guys at Amcor who have been so generous with their support, thank you.

    A very special thanks to the ETU organisers and members, who are standing by us daily, and supporting us when the fight seems too hard. We are proud to stand arm in arm and fight. Our forefathers’ blood, sweat, and tears gained us the rights we have today. Loading, annual leave, better wage conditions, protection of accrued entitlements, an eight hour day, these all had to be fought for. Today these rights stand precariously on a cliff made by little John. We can only hope that our fight will help you when it is your turn to fight, and believe me, we will all have a turn.


About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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3 Responses to Cheryl Sings the Heinemann Electric Blues

  1. Oi oi… Story in the Oz today about Heinemann’s shitty safety record alleged bullying. Check it.

  2. Former Cost Accountant, Trenton Office says:

    I feel your pain. I worked for Heinemann Electric Co., Trenton, New Jersey from 1970 to 1986. Between the giant recession for the 70s and the mismanagement of the Heinemann top brass, it’s a wonder the company survived for as long as it did.

    The biggest problem was management’s obsession in it’s attempt to bust the union of the factory workers and trying to keep an office union from forming. They hated the fact that people only wanted a fair salary for a days work, drove the owners to screw everyone who ever worked for the company.

    Once upon a time the company made the best breakers in the world but management not the factory workers or the office staff had anything to do with the company losing major contracts throughout the country. Things got so bad that management tried their best to pit one union against the other. The result was bad feelings and a non willingness for people to give that extra effort needed to get the job done. And why should they? The company did their best to destroy any form of trust between the workers and management.

    By the time I was “laid-off” Heinemann had already moved much of their assembly lines to Maryland where they were able to hire non union labor. The quality of work fell and major contracts were not being renewed. It was the beginning of the end for not only the Trenton plant but the community that supported it.

    Heartless, gutless, scum are the only descriptions that apply to those who ran the company. They took the money and ran and left hundreds of faithful employees to try and start their lives over again.

    People were treated like dirt and if not for the general job market in those days I am certain that most would have left on their own long before being let go. The bottom line is that we busted our asses for a company that could not have cared less.

    I wish all of you well. It’s too bad that after all these years Heinemann hasn’t changed one damn bit.

  3. Thomas Pattley Jr. says:

    I worked at the Heinemann Trenton plant from 1979 to 1988. Started as a Stockboy on the plant assembly floor. Moved to the office as a Draftsman, Sr. Draftsman, Sr. Draftsman Coordinator, then finally to Sales Associate for Military & Foreign Accounts. I agree with everything you say. The company really did not care about their dedicated workers who spent their entire working lives in the plant or office. They were either forced out or “laid off”. My Grandmother worked for Heinemann for approx 20 yrs. Her pension was laughable. I do have to say I worked with some of the best employees in the world at Heinemann and also had some wonderful bosses and supervisors. There was only one that showed absolutely no respect for his workers. (Connie R.) I’m sure you know who I speak of. I would hope you agree.

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