A common problem facing Public Transport workers like at Leichhardt and Kingsgove depots, is the union delegate who is a notorious bosses' stooge. Such people are extremely dangerous given their cave-in/collaboration with the speedup and other bosses' plans and particularly given the Carr Govt's threats of privatisation. of bus routes and eventually the whole STA / SRA. The following article by a trammie from Sth Melbourne tram depot looks at how such a bosses stooge was given the sack, and replaced by a delegate who acted on the basis of a strict mandate from depot union meetings. This article was originally published in the Victorian edition of Sparks in 1987.
Throughout most of 1987, Sth Melb. tram depot had to put up with a dictatorial, disruptive, meddling union delegate.By November we had had enough and steps were taken by the rank and file to rid ourselves of this disruptive person.
A meeting was called, or rather demanded, on the 4th. of Nov. to discuss yet again the depot's disatisfactian with the delegate. She refused to recognise the meeting and stormed out shrieking "I'm still the delegate".
The meeting was held without her and a motion of no confidence in the delegate was passed.
When word of this "illegal" meeting reached our beloved leaders, quick measures were taken to have a "scheduled" meeting the next day.(We can't have workers holding meetings and making decisions without supervision)!
The meeting on the 5th. was attended by the entire union executive, a measure no doubt of the fear that they may lose control of the situation. The meeting voted to hold a stopwork on the 9th to solve the delegate issue once and for all.
The stopwork meeting was, duly held and the Union President arrived with a ballot box and an understanding from the delegate that if the depot wished it, she would resign. There was an immediate rush for the ballot box.The depot seemed unconcerned that it must be the first time in the history of the ATMOEA (now PTU) that a simple no confidence motion had been decided by secret ballot.
The vote went two to one against the delegate. All that was left was for us to endure her insulting farewell speech. The applause and cheering at the end was for fact that she had resigned rather than for the contents of the speech itself. Our union secretary further insulted us by declaring that we had nothing to be proud of and that we had established an unfortunate precedent that would never be repeated. (The precedent is a good one and should be repeated whenever necessary) Like all good dictators, however, our ex-delegate tried one last ploy, and next day withdrew her resignation!!, and informed us that she woud take us to the Industrial Court! This was too much for the union executive and, it appears, the bosses.
For our ex-delegate was promptly transferred to the hapless Glenhuntly depot, which, incidentally, had previously kicked her out. After the vote, S.M. depot unanimously endorsed J. Christie, the proxy delegate, as acting delegate, until elections can be held early this year.
This isn't the end of the grand comedy, however, for we have persistent reports from the person herself that she will return and contest for the position of delegate!
To repeat the point made in my previous article, the most important issue to come out of this whole saga is union accountability. In this particular case a united and determined rank and file refused to back down in the face of strong leadership opposition. A precedent has been established, it is a good one.
Patrick Cook, tram driver,
S.M. depot.