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Thursday, 8 September 1983
Page: 568


Mr CAMPBELL —Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of the lengthy dispute in the Pilbara region concerning Hamersley Iron Pty Limited in relation to claims for shorter working hours? Is the Government concerned about this dispute? What action is the Government taking in search of a resolution?


Mr WILLIS —Yes, I am aware of this claim for a 36-hour week on behalf of members of the work force of Hamersley Iron. They have been applying quite disruptive work bans for several weeks in pursuit of that claim. It has been before the Western Australian Industrial Commission without any progress to this stage. At present some 1,400 workers have been stood down at Mount Tom Price and Paraburdoo. That has been the case as from 1 September. I understand that another 800 workers may well be stood down next week if the dispute is not resolved as the company will, by then, have run out of ore to ship. Of course, I am concerned about this matter, and so too is the Government, for two reasons. The first is that the claim for a 36-hour week is not in accord with Government policy; indeed, nor is it in accord with the prices and incomes accord.

Members of the work force at Hamersley Iron are currently working a 40-hour week. I am aware of the fact that workers at nearby companies like Goldsworthy Mining Limited and Cliffs Western Australia Mining Co. Pty Ltd at Robe River are working a 38-hour week, and it would not be unreasonable for the work force at Hamersley to seek to obtain a 38-hour week so long as the workers were prepared to negotiate meaningful offsets in the way that is generally recognised in the application of the 38-hour week so that the cost increases, as a result of moving to a 38-hour week, were negligible. But a move to a 36-hour week is simply not on. I think honourable members would not need any lectures from me to understand that a move to a 36-hour week at this stage, when we are poised for recovery, would certainly not be conducive to that recovery and could well mean that that recovery would not take place.

I am concerned also about the future of the iron ore industry. As I understand it, we have a situation in which several contracts are up for renewal next year. At present a delegation from Japan is visiting Australia. That delegation went to the Pilbara recently and saw what one newspaper described as a study in still -life. This was hardly conducive to our long term prospects in the Pilbara. We know that the Japanese are looking continually at diversification of their supplies. It is a matter of concern that Hamersley Iron was in a state of close down when a delegation from Japan went there. The Government has had contact with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Western Australian Trades and Labor Council and the Western Australian Minister for Industrial Relations on various occasions but, I must say, without success at this stage. I call on the workers at Hamersley Iron to take a more realistic approach to their claims, to enter into meaningful negotiations with the company for a 38-hour week, but to foresake the 36-hour week claim at this stage. It is simply not in accordance with the prices and incomes accord and not at all in accordance with what we need in this country for economic recovery.