In recent days there has been widespread media reporting of allegations concerning the conduct of a group of union representatives during an industrial dispute involving two Melbourne firms, Johnson Tiles and Skilled Engineering.

The National Council of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union responded swiftly and appropriately to the allegations.

Criminal charges have now been brought by police in relation to the allegations concerning Skilled Engineering, and it must be emphasised that any person charged is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

The issue which led to the industrial dispute concerned the contracting out of the jobs of maintenance workers employed by Johnson Tiles, and their replacement by employees of Skilled Engineering. This action by the two companies threatened the livelihood of the maintenance workers and their families.

The ACTU strongly supports the right of workers and their unions to engage in industrial action to protect job security and wages and conditions of employment.

However, the ACTU clearly and unequivocally rejects the instigation of violence, intimidation or destruction of property during industrial disputes. This activity has no place in either union or employer behaviour.

It is noted that in the circumstances of the dispute involving Johnson Tiles and Skilled Engineering there is a police investigation and that the legal process must take its course.

The ACTU deplores the fact that many of the maintenance employees at Johnson Tiles have now lost their job. The ACTU is also concerned for other employees of the two companies, as well as their families, who have experienced distress as a result of the events surrounding the industrial dispute.

In coming months the ACTU, in conjunction with unions in Victoria and nationally, will develop strategic responses to the issues raised in this dispute, including the increasing use of contract and replacement workforces in substitute for permanent employees.