By Ian Jamieson
BURNIE — Paper giant APPM has announced plans to cut 400 jobs at its Burnie and Wesley Vale mills.
The company is also pressing for big changes in hours and conditions not agreed to in the settlement of the momentous three-week strike here in May-June. The plans were announced to the media, rather than a negotiating team working on changes to award conditions at APPM.
The company wants to eliminate penalty rates and replace award wages with salaries. Overtime would be abolished, and working hours would be increased from 35 to 38.
The announcement came as a bombshell in Burnie, which is still recovering after the long strike. Probably most surprised were union delegates participating in the ACTU-inspired negotiating team created at the end of the strike.
Only hours before the media reports appeared, union delegates were negotiating on a company proposal to slash 200 jobs. At that stage, delegates were led to believe that only one of five shifts was to be axed.
APPM's announcement has angered union delegates. "What's the point of having discussions when they go behind your back and set the rules to suit themselves?", said one. "The consultations, touted by the ACTU as a victory following the strike, are just window dressing. APPM tolerates them just to win back some of the damaging public relations it lost during the picket."
The announcement is a body blow to Burnie and also
to the reputation of the ACTU, which is closely identified with the strike settlement. APPM now says it is happy to deal with the unions as a team. A recent visit to Burnie by Paul Keating did little to comfort the APPM work force despite the prime minister's praise for the picketers, their families and supporters.