Thu, Aug 3, 1:07pm by Staff Writer
Members of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) gathered with allies outside of Crown Casino in Melbourne on July 25, rallying to protest the impending layoffs of 16 gaming machine technicians.
As members of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), those Crown Casino employees joined 90 other maintenance workers in signing an enterprise bargaining agreement that has remaining in place over the last 20 years.
But as Sally McManus – who serves as Secretary of the ACTU – told ABC News ahead of the rally, their long-term employment came to an end with the last day of July.
In replacing the positions, Crown Casino contracted with Amtek Corporation, a gaming machine manufacturer and servicer that plans to provide the same labour at a 30 percent reduction in pay. Per an internal company memo obtained by Fairfax Media, Crown Casino executives framed the switch to Amtek-provided maintenance as a cost-cutting measure, stating that a “decision has been made for an external supplier to deliver services, parts and labour to gaming machines at Crown Melbourne.”
The choice to utilize Amtek has drawn the ire of McManus and the ACTU, which alleges impropriety based on an existing relationship between former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett and the company. Kennett was responsible for approving Crown Casino’s construction in the early 1990s during his term as Premier, and now serves as Director of Amtek, while holding a majority stake in the company’s shares.
As McManus told ABC News, Kennett’s prior involvement with Crown Casino, compounded by his current role with Amtek, poses clear conflict of interest problems. But even without that contentious connection looming in the background, the McManus said the ACTU opposes Crown Casino’s layoffs on their merits alone:
“It’s about Crown Casino and the fact that they have decided to outsource their maintenance workers that fix their machines, and in doing so tell those workers that they’ve lost their jobs, they can’t apply for the new jobs.”
McManus led a group of over 200 protestors from the State Library in Victoria to the front of Crown Casino, where she addressed the crowd and offered support for the layoff victims. Other stakeholders to speak included ETU Victoria Secretary Troy Gray, Victorian Trade Halls Secretary Luke Hilikari, ACTU Union Delegate of the Year Paul Jeffares, and social commentator Van Badham.
Gray spoke with ABC News to urge union workers across all industries to utilize social media as a tool for further protests:
“Social media is the new weapon [for] the worker … the brand to these corporations is everything, so this will be a social media campaign this will be a hit and run campaign.
We will take as long as it takes to get these workers back into their jobs on decent rates and fair union wages.”
Kennett himself addressed the row in his own interview with ABC News, during which time he denied knowledge of any discrepancies in pay between the previous employees and Amtek’s replacements:
“They are new employees in the main. I have no idea what the former employees were paid, I have no idea what ours are paid.”
Suffice to say ours will be paid all their legal entitlements.”
Kennett went on to question the ACTU’s motives, opining that the group was only interested in protesting these particular layoffs due to his role with Amtek:
“Our company did not sack anyone, we were simply the beneficiaries of winning the contract, so we’ve just come in providing jobs.
“I have no beef with the ETU, but their beef is certainly not with us, because firstly we didn’t sack anyone, secondly we are going to employ people to earn a living, and thirdly and importantly – if it wasn’t for my association with the company they’d have no focus for the demonstrations.”
In an interesting twist of timing, the ACTU rally comes nearly one year after hundreds of Crown Casino employees held their own march to protest claims of insufficient overtime pay.
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