Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

The G & K O’Connor Lockout (1999) and its Aftermath: A Case Study of a Union Avoidance Campaign in the Australian Meat Processing Industry

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2015), 109, (1), 131–148.

Abstract

The G & K O’Connor lockout of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union (AMIEU) members in 1999 was an example of a change in employer strategy with the objective of removing the union from its Pakenham abattoir. Chris Briggs’ research on the recurrence of the lockout in Australia sees it as an example of a “big bang lockout” which occurs against the background of legislative changes, a downturn in the meat processing industry, and other factors. This article examines the G & K O’Connor lockout in detail. It identifies legislative change in the form of the introduction of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) under theWorkplace Relations Act 1996in providing the company with the opportunity and legal framework to change its industrial relations strategy and weaken the AMIEU. This upsurge in employer militancy was also associated with use of the Federal Government’s apprentice and traineeship scheme, anti-union consultants, and tactics such as industrial spies and labour espionage. The lockout, which the stakeholders described as a “baseball bat lockout,” and subsequent actions by the employer introduced a “Pinkerton Incorporated” style of culture into Australian industrial relations in which the employer adopted an offensive position against the union using a range of union avoidance tactics.

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Footnotes

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Author details

Jerrard, Marjorie