[PEN-L:1571] Re: Unions win against RTZ/CRA

Peter Colley pcolley at ozemail.com.au
Fri Nov 24 23:22:00 MST 1995

On 24 November 1995 Ellen J. Dannin wrote:
>I seem to recall that CRA owned / owns Tiwai, an aluminium plant in New
>Zealand.  The company  engaged in a similar -- but successful -- strategy of
>deunionising there immediately after the ECA was enacted in 1991.  According
>to reports, it learned deunionising techniques after a visit to and
>consultations with consultants in the United States in the late 1980's.
>Does anyone know, if my recollection is correct, whether the methods used
>have, in fact, been transported from one site to the other and what were
>similarities and dissimilarities?

The brief answer is that CRA does own the Tiwai smelter in New Zealand,
which was de-unionised after the NZ government introduced the Empoyment
Contracts Act which abolished the legal status of trade unions overnight.
Trade unions can only exist in NZ as voluntary associations like sports

CRA cites Tiwai as an example of the success of its strategy, and claims
that productivity and the like have improved enormously.  There are two
aspects to such claims:

1.  They are never independently verified.  We all know how shonky the OHS
statistics are from transnationals operating in third world countries where
such statistics are never independently scrutinised.  CRA makes similar
spurious claims with regard to producticity in mines in unionised mines
here compared to non-unionised mines in the USA.

2.  It is often the case that some unions have left themselves vulnerable
to attack through doggedly resisting all work place change.  I am not
saying this is/was necessarily the case at Tiwai.  In Australia the
historical tradition of skill or trade based unions rather than industry
unions has meant that unions sometimes resisted workplace change because
where such change affected job classifications it threatened their legal
coverage rights. With the move to larger and industry-based unions (which
is still regarded by some here as divorcing the rank-and-file from their
unions) the problem of demarcation and inherent opposition to workplace
change has been lessened.

The person whom it is claimed that CRA has drawn on for its inspiration is
Elliot Jacques from the USA.  However, most of his work has been done with
CRA, so I am not sure how well known he would be in the USA.  Elliot has
claimed here that he is not anti-union, and that CRA's tactics at Weipa
cannot be sourced from his advice. He just claims to about reducing layers
of management and about creating absolute bonds of loyalty between the
individual worker and the company.  However, it is clear that there is no
room for collective representation of workers in such a framework.

Peter Colley
National Industrial / Research Officer
Construction, Forestry, Mining & Energy Union
(Mining & Energy Division)
Sydney, Australia
pcolley at cfmeu.com.au

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