Alcoa workers claim win after 53 days on strike

While the vote has ended, the strike that began on August 8 to win a better enterprise bargaining agreement is not over.

Workers from five different Alcoa sites throughout Western Australia voted at a mass meeting in Pinjarra on September 28 to end their seven-week strike. The vote occurred after the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), which covers the 1600 Alcoa workers, secured an agreement guaranteeing job security and ensuring that no workers would be replaced through casualisation, contracting or labour-hire companies.

While the vote has ended the strike that began on August 8, the struggle to win a better enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) is not over. Workers are set to vote on the new EBA being offered by Alcoa in October.

AWU WA branch secretary Andy Hacking told Green Left Weekly that the union had “managed to win job security and important stuff around job descriptions, but there are still a few things that are not right…

“At the end of the day we will carry on. We are not going to recommend the agreement to members in October, but if it doesn’t get up, we will continue to negotiate and try to pick up some of the other conditions.”

Meanwhile, the Fair Work Commission is yet to make a decision on Alcoa’s request to terminate the existing EBA.

The Alcoa workers’ strike has been hailed as a major victory by the trade union movement. Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said: “Congratulations to all the workers who stood up and demanded secure jobs, this is a great example of the power of working people and for the entire union movement.

“AWU members have stayed strong and refused to be intimidated by the possibility of being pushed back onto the award, but we have to change the rules so that no working person can ever be threatened in this way again.

“This has been an incredible effort and the workers involved have had to withstand incredible amounts of stress and uncertainty. It shouldn’t be this hard for workers to get better pay and conditions.”

In what has been one of the biggest strikes in recent Australian history, Alcoa workers have shown the importance of collective action in taking a stand and making gains.

Hacking told GLW: “Hopefully this win can be a tool that other unions and workplaces across Australia can jump on”.

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