Bosswatch: Water workers to strike, mining giants 'cut fat'

Water workers to strike

Workers at Sydney Water, angered by the axing of more than 300 jobs as well as the undermining of conditions, have voted for rolling strikes into next year.

More than 1000 workers took part in a four hour walkout on September 20, rallying at Parramatta Stadium. They voted to begin the strikes from next month.

The Australian Services Union (ASU), which will conduct a further two weeks of negotiations with Sydney Water management, is worried that after 335 job cuts Sydney Water wants a new enterprise agreement that will make it easier to sack even more staff.

ASU NSW secretary Sally McManus told AAP: “Sydney Water wants to halve the redundancy pay it gives to people ... obviously it's going to make the workers a lot easier to get rid of.”

AAP reported: “Sydney Water managing director Kevin Young said new enterprise agreements were a necessary step to bring employee benefits into line with current market conditions.”

Train workers strike against outsourcing

Melbourne’s railway maintenance workers will begin a series of three-hour strikes on September 24 and further strike action is planned on September 26.

Their employer, Metro Trains, is pushing for staff to work more night shifts, longer shifts and fewer days.

Unions, including the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, and the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia, say Metro has threatened to outsource the work to contractors if workers don’t accept the changes.

ETU organiser Gerry Glover told The Age that Metro said workers could, "either agree to their roster changes, which will see their employees take a hit of between $7000 and $10,000 a year [or Metro] will outsource the work and cop upwards of 100 forced redundancies".

Mining giants ‘cutting fat’

Rio Tinto joined the throng of job cutting mining giants on September 18, saying it will close a Queensland coalmine and slash an unspecified number of jobs. Last week BHP Billiton and Xstrata cut a combined 900 jobs.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who has declared the mining boom “over”, said there would be further job losses in mining as “unprofitable operations” are closed. Ferguson urged mining companies to focus on "keeping costs down" and becoming “more productive”.

But Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union Queensland president Stephen Smyth said Rio’s move was to “trim some of the fat, so they maintain the bottom line of the huge, enormous profits they are earning”. Rio Tinto made almost $6 billion profit in the past 6 months.

Smyth said Rio should look at other options rather than “cull and cut the workforce”.

Another mining company, Northern Iron, said on September 17 that it would suspend its iron ore exploration program and axe an unspecified number of jobs.

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