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Wednesday, 20 November 1974
Page: 2617

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I have always believed that the adjournment debate is an occasion to remedy any injustices and tonight I rise on behalf of the Joint Commonwealth Secretary of the Commonwealth Council of the Amalgamated Metal Workers' Union to refute an assertion that was made on 2 October by Senator Townley. I refer to the amalgamation of trade unions. This union, Senator Grimes, myself and others at the time questioned the authenticity of what Senator Townley was saying. On that particular night he said there had been numerous demarcation disputes despite the creation of the Amalgamated Metal Workers' Union. It is the word 'numerous' that both the union and I take umbrage at, and I have a 2-page statement from the Joint Commonwealth Secretary of this union, Mr John Garland, which I intend to ask leave of the Senate to have incorporated in Hansard.

This is probably not the time for lengthy debate but I simply say this: The Joint Commonwealth Secretary of the large organisation concerned points out, among other things, that the very early and serious demarcation struggles which took place between the old Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society and the Amalgamated

Engineering Union, predominantly over welding, are no more. I object to Senator Townley 's instant assessment of a dispute in Tasmania, to which this statement refers, involving employer provocation, and to his use of the word 'numerous'. I do not intend saying any more at this stage because I believe that after the document is incorporated in Hansard, when on another occasion we are dealing with industrial legislation or a Budget debate we can take it further. But when there has been an error made or a distortion of fact, a large organisation like the Amalgamated Metal Workers' Union is entitled to have its viewpoint put. It is for that reason I ask that this 2-page document which bears the signatire of John Garland, the Joint Commonwealth Secretary, be incorporated in Hansard.

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)- 16 October 1974

Senator J.A. Mulvihill, Commonwealth Parliament Offices, 5 Martin Place, SYDNEY, N.S.W. 2000.

Dear Tony,

Statement- Senator Townley, Tasmania- Amalgamations

It was kind of you to forward us the Hansard pages of this Senator's speech and we appreciate your reply, that is in defence of the trade union movement and of amalgamations in particular. You were very much on the correct line.

There are three things that can be said about Senator Townley's remarks and, by the nature of the questions raised in your interjections, you are well aware of these:

1.   He was correct in respect to the dispute at Renison Bell, insofar as this was a demarcation issue between Boilermakers and Fitters concerning work to be done. ( Both are members of the AM W U. )

The major point is that the dispute arose as a result of the company requiring Fitters to do Boilermakers* work and subsequently notifying that they expected the reverse also to apply.

There would never have been a dispute (and it did go on for some months, with periodical stoppages, overtime bans and finally the dispute itself) if the company had not been so truculent and resolute in its decision that this flexibility of working conditions was to apply.

2.   There have been a few limited disputes of a demarcation nature between members of the AMWU in the first 12 months of amalgamation which were nothing more than carry-overs from the very many and serious separate demarcation struggles that took place between the old Boilermakers and Blacksmiths' Society and the AEU, predominantly over the question of welding.

To suggest, as Senator Townley does in a sweeping remark, that amalgamations have caused or extended demarcation disputes, is ridiculous and contrary to fact.

3.   Even in the first 6 months of amalgamation, from January 1972 to June 1972, the previously continuous issue of demarcation between the three unions concerned, virtually disappeared.

The records will clearly show that, since the end of 1972, there have been hardly any major demarcation disputes between the three former unions: Boilermakers, Engineers and Sheet Metal Workers, or between any two of the three former unions.

As a result, it can be said, except for the odd case like Renison Bell, that amalgamations substantially reduce any union conflict on a wide range of matters, not only demarcation, and an elementary examination of the position will show this to be correct.

We commend you for your attention in this matter and thank you for the enclosures forwarded with your letter.



Joint Commonwealth Secretary

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