Thursday, November 16, 2006

Community solidarity targets Alcoa

By Ian Jamieson (from Green Left Weekly 4 November 2006)

The construction of the giant Alcoa aluminium processing plant in Pinjarra, south of Perth, was held up for several hours on November 1 as the local community protested against sackings at the site.

Thirty workers employed by Moore’s civil earthworks and building services at the refinery found themselves without a job on October 31 after Alcoa decided to terminate Moore’s contract. The workers were immediately approached by a successful contractor, C.E.C.K., with an offer to re-employ them under Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs — individual contracts) that would have reduced their earnings by 25% and cut their conditions.

Incensed by this attempt to cut wages, approaches were made to the newly formed Peel Community Solidarity group to help protest Alcoa’s decision. The Australian Workers Union (AWU) tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Alcoa management about the issue.

Within 24 hours, 120 Peel Community Solidarity supporters assembled on the main access road to the refinery. The protesters decided to hold a public meeting in the middle of the road during the morning shift change at the plant. Alcoa employs around 2,000 workers at the plant and the road meeting caused a massive traffic jam.

The community protesters were determined not only to show their contempt for Alcoa’s decision to sack the 30 workers, but also to force management to negotiate with the AWU. When the rally adjourned after 45 minutes, there was agreement that if Alcoa did not make a serious attempt to negotiate, the protesters would re-assemble the next morning to decide further action.

Alcoa stonewalled during the day and Peel Community Solidarity members issued a wide appeal for supporters to rally during the shift change on November 2. Fifty protesters rallied again and Alcoa, desperate to thwart the protest, used security guards to divert traffic "