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Shell Company does not plan on taking legal action over Transport Workers Union proposed 24-hour strike for wage increase

PETER CAVE: At midnight last night, aircraft refuellers around the country walked off the job. The 24-hour strike is part of their 12 per cent wage claim and is in breach of a ruling by the Industrial Relations Commission which has suspended the Transport Workers Union's right to strike for a fortnight because the union is seeking an industry-wide pay rise rather than seeking individual enterprise agreements.

The Federal Industrial Relations Minister, Laurie Brereton, has warned the Transport Workers Union that today's strike could see employers take the union to the Industrial Relations Commission or, ultimately, to the courts. But at least one oil company isn't planning to use the sanctions yet, as Warren Stooke from Shell told Sarah Armstrong.

WARREN STOOKE: What Mr Brereton has said is quite correct and I must say I applaud the Minister for the support that was given to the companies on Friday, and it really is the responsibility of the employers and other affected parties as to whether they take legal action against the striking employees and the union.

SARAH ARMSTRONG: And are you going to do that?

WARREN STOOKE: At this point in time it's our objective that we secure a normality of work and we're not intending to inflame the situation. Our total objective is to get the negotiations back on track and, indeed, that will require a conference with the union and we have to report back on Tuesday morning to the Commission.

SARAH ARMSTRONG: It seems that the TWU is prepared to risk any of these possible sanctions.

WARREN STOOKE: Well, one of the disappointing factors with this whole negotiation process has been that the union has sought to pre-empt what has been a good enterprise bargaining process with our own employees and, in fact, we have requested on a number of occasions that the union desist from calling this meeting to enable our company to conclude our negotiations. However, the union has not agreed to that process, so we're somewhat disappointed and critical of the union that they have led the employees to take this action.

SARAH ARMSTRONG: What if no progress is made at the meeting with the union?

WARREN STOOKE: We'll have to examine what the decisions of the meeting are. We would hope that the meeting would resolve to return to work, and if that is the case then we will continue with our enterprise bargaining. I must say that at the moment the union has a 12 per cent wage claim which is totally unacceptable. We have offered 6 per cent, and that 6 per cent rests against an increase in excess of 10 per cent since August '91. So, as you can see, with our 6 per cent current offer, the employees have been given a 16 per cent minimum wage increase over the five-year period.

SARAH ARMSTRONG: But if you make no progress in discussions will you then take action?

WARREN STOOKE: We're certainly considering our legal options with respect to taking action. In fact, tonight I've been briefing our lawyers to that effect.

PETER CAVE: Warren Stooke, who's the Industrial Relations Manager for Shell.