Alcoa workers reject new offer as BP seeks to terminate agreement

October 21, 2018
Australian Workers’ Union WA branch president Andy Hacking said one of the main ongoing issues was the company’s treatment of workers who went on strike. Photo: Alex Salmon

Workers at Alcoa’s aluminium refineries and bauxite mines in Western Australia have voted down a new agreement offered to them after a 52-day strike.

The new agreement, which secured job security guarantees and other important conditions, led to Alcoa’s 1600 workers voting to return to work on September 28. A previous offer that threatened to slash pay and remove job security was rejected by more than 80% in early September.

The new offer was voted down by 61% this week.

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) WA branch president Andy Hacking, whose union covers Alcoa workers, told Green Left Weekly that one of the main ongoing issues is the company’s treatment of workers who went on strike. He said that the union has been working on obtaining an amnesty for members who participated on the picket lines, arguing, “What happens outside the gate, stays outside the gate”.

AWU state secretary Mike Zoetbrood said Alcoa’s actions had strained relations with the union. The Mandurah Mail reported on October 18 that Zoetbrood said: “Our members have spoken. It is now time to try and find a resolution that brings the parties back together.”

Meanwhile, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) is yet to decide on whether to grant Alcoa’s application to terminate the existing enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA), which was lodged in September.

Other companies are now seeking to follow Alcoa’s course of action and have their EBAs terminated. British oil and gas multinational BP applied to the FWC on October 17 to terminate its agreement with the 200-strong workforce at its Kwinana facilities, south of Perth, after a breakdown in its 18-month-long negotiations with the AWU.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton denounced BP's move as an “act of industrial bastardy”, according to WAToday on October 18. He called on BP to withdraw its application and apologise to its Kwinana workforce, saying that the workers had gone through all the correct channels to maintain their conditions, but “in response, BP management has pulled out the biggest and nastiest weapon they have at their disposal — complete termination of the workplace agreement.

“All these workers want is to maintain what they have and not slide backwards,” Walton said.

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