Nurse supports striking Boeing workers

RN Christy Lantz joined striking Boeing workers at an AWU picketline in support of her partner and the right of workers to negotiate a collective agreement.

New Year’s Day marked 215 days that the Boeing workers at Williamtown, Newcastle, have been on the picket line to win the right to negotiate a collective agreement.

Since January 2005, the Australian Workers Union (AWU) has been attempting to negotiate a collective agreement but Boeing Management refuse point blank to move away from individual contracts. The AWU has argued that workers at most of Boeing’s other sites in Australia and in the United States are employed under collective agreements and the Williamtown employees want that same right.

One person who has been impacted by the experience is Christy Lantz, a RN at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle. Her partner, Jamie, is one of the workers on the picket line. Christy and Jamie also have a seven-year-old son. They are currently living on her nurse’s wage and are grateful to have received some financial support from the campaign fund. She describes the emotional impact of being on strike for such a long period of time as ‘horrendous’.

‘Financially you can’t plan for anything, but emotionally it’s very difficult to cope,’ she said.

Christy believes that what the Boeing workers are asking for is simple. ‘They’re not asking for buckets of money, just what’s entitled to them.’

‘You have to stand up for your principles, but you can’t just focus on yourself. You have to look beyond that for the greater good of society.’ This is what she and Jamie feels their family is doing by continuing to be out on the picket line.

John Boyd, Organiser with the Australian Workers Union, said, ‘WorkChoices is a complete farce. Australian workers don’t have the right to bargain collectively – unless their employer says they can. The support from the community around this issue has been overwhelming.’

Howard sides with the boss
The Prime Minister has publicly backed the Boeing company’s refusal to negotiate a collective agreement, despite claiming that his government’s Industrial Relations WorkChoices agenda aims to provide workers with more choice between awards and agreements.

The Government’s $55 million dollar campaign and advertisements stated that the proposed changes would ‘preserve the rights of workers to have a union negotiate a collective agreement if they wish’. The Boeing dispute is evidence that the Liberal Government’s agenda is to undermine and, in this case, eliminate the ability for unions to negotiate a collective agreement on behalf of workers.

NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, has criticised the Federal Government for not intervening in the issue and, in response, the NSW Government initiated an inquiry into the dispute. Final submissions from both parties in that inquiry will continue this month.

Nurses can support Boeing workers and their families by visiting the picket line, making a donation to the campaign, and sending a protest message to Boeing and the Government at www.awu.net.au/boeing.