Fourteen members of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), employed at EnerSys’ Thomastown, are now in the ninth week of a strike. EnerSys manufactures batteries for industrial applications, mostly telecommunications.
The night before the electricians were going to implement work bans, a part of enterprise bargaining campaign, management emailed saying they would not be paid if they carried out the bans.
They unanimously voted at a site meeting on July 26 to walk off the job until EnerSys revoked its threat.
Human Resources manager Lynda Ratkovic told the delegates in August: “Let’s see who starves first.”
The electricians want a wage rise comparable with inflation, a restructuring of wage classifications and better working conditions. They are some of the lowest paid ETU members.
ETU delegate David Martin told Green Left: “EnerSys [often] talks about workers being their ‘best asset’. But when it comes to the crunch, they don’t give a shit about us…
“We worked all through COVID-19 while the managers all worked from home.”
Martin said EnerSys is only offering a 4.7% pay rise in the first year and a 3% pay rise for each of the next three year — well below inflation.
He said this substandard offer is on top of the workers accepting a compromise agreement during the pandemic. The last pay rise — 2% — was in April last year – well below inflation.
Martin said EnerSys can afford to pay workers an inflation level pay rise because they are making record profits. But the company has done some very petty things, including demanding workers remove their tools, and then deny then access. The managers then threw their expensive tools onto the street, damaging them.
One manager even drove into an ETU official.
Martin said it is likely the company is taking such a hard line with them “because the Thomastown site is the only unionised site in Australia”.
If the workers win it could encourage other sites to also unionise.
The workers are being hampered by industrial laws which ban workers from blocking gates, under the threat of millions of dollars in fines.
The union is calling for solidarity by contributing to the strike fund and visit the picket line.
[Visit the picket line at EnerSys, 309 Settlement Rd (corner Dalton Road), Thomastown. You can donate to the Strike Fund at “ETU Dispute” BSB 063 626; Account Number 1062 9111.]