ACTU pledges support to Alcoa workers as strike enters its fourth week

Australian Council of Trade Union secretary Sally McManus (centre) brought a message of solidarity from the trade union movement. Photo: Alex Salmon

Australia Workers' Union (AWU) members at Alcoa refinery plants and bauxite mines in Western Australia have been on strike since August 8. At stake in the dispute is the job security of 1600 workers.

Workers decided to take indefinite industrial action following a breakdown in the 21-month-long negotiations over the workers’ Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). Alcoa is now attempting to terminate their agreement and remove existing conditions, such as protections against forced redundancies.

To mark the strike’s 20th day, site meetings were held on August 27 at the ongoing picket lines set up outside Alcoa workplaces in Pinjarra, Kwinana, Wagerup, Huntley and Willowdale.

Addressing the Kwinana picket line, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus brought a message of solidarity from the trade union movement (video below).

McManus told the crowd: “There is nothing more important than knowing that you have a job you can count on; nothing more important than knowing the boss can't just cast you aside when they choose to. Having a clause with no forced redundancies is gold. You have to do whatever you can to keep it.”

McManus applauded the stand of the workers in the face of threats by Alcoa to cancel their agreement and take away conditions, labelling the move by the bosses as “industrial thuggery”.

“We will never give in with a gun to our heads, no way. It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees”, McManus said.

McManus told workers that the ACTU is completely behind their struggle and that it would call on union members around Australia to give support to the strikers.

McManus’ speech was followed by chants of “The rules are broken, change the rules” and “If you don't fight, you lose”.

AWU Western Australian branch president Andy Hacking said that the main sticking points in the dispute were the ambiguous wording in the EBA on the issues of redundancies and whether members have the right to be consulted on the agreement.

Voting on Alcoa’s proposed EBA will run from August 28 to September 5. If a majority of the workers reject the EBA, the AWU will request another round of negotiations with the company.

In the meantime, Hacking said, donations and visits to the picket line are greatly appreciated.

The AWU will host a live concert at the Premier Hotel in Pinjarra on September 1 as a way of saying thanks to community members and local businesses for their steadfast support of the union.

On August 22, about 1200 people from various trade unions rallied in support of striking Alcoa workers in Solidarity Park, West Perth.

[The ACTU has set up a website to collect donations at australianunions.org.au/awu_alcoa_strike.]