Meat Industry Employers, MATFA and the Choice of Industrial Relations Strategies
Yet, while Portland may have been the main catalyst, the new dispute was part of a longstanding history of conflict and followed in the wake of a number of decisions by MATFA, employers and the Commission.
When MATFA launched its appeal against the 1982 award variation, it also urged its members not to sign s.28 agreements, on the basis that this was an 'extra claim'.
The AMIEU approached MATFA to discuss the 38-hour week in 1986 and, in 1987, applied to the Commission for its introduction through the VMBA.
The tendency for companies to hand over much of their primary bargaining responsibilities to MATFA tended to produce a more confrontational approach.
This, in turn, largely determined the relative roles of individual companies and MATFA.
They also chose to carry out this strategy through MATFA. Their first step was to refuse to honour or re-negotiate any of the existing unregistered over-award agreements they had with the union.
On behalf of meat industry employers and its own organisational purpose, MATFA therefore faced the need to deal with two strategic priorities that could be tightly related, but that MATFA could also win or lose separately.
MATFA's leadership itself had concluded that if one firm could defeat the Victorian Branch of the AMIEU, then a similar choice of confrontational industrial strategy by the whole of the Victorian industry, in combination, should have an even greater chance of victory.
In entering the VMBA Dispute, MATFA's Industrial Committee had developed an industry-wide strategy that used MATFA's larger exporter members, such as R.J.
Careful to avoid calling out its entire membership in Victoria at any one time, the union's response was to organise a series of rolling stoppages at the plants of those employers spearheading the MATFA campaign.
On 14 September 1989, the Full Bench of the Commission upheld MATFA's application on the 38-hour week and continued hearings into the minimum rates award application and the bans clause.