Plasterboard workers demand CSR pays up

CFMMEU members at CSR are taking action for a 4% wage rise. Photo: CFMMEU Tas–Vic/Facebook

Plasterboard workers at CSR Gyprock in Yarraville, who walked off the job on November 25, are continuing their campaign for a 4% pay rise after being offered 3% on December 15, a marginal rise from the previous offer of 2.5%. CSR Gyprock is a division of CSR Ltd.

After negotiations stalled, the workers, members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union (CFMMEU), put a ban on overtime and held two work stoppages.

After management threatened not to pay the workers for the day, they walked out the gate and set up a picket line. CSR Gyprock is now threatening to cancel workers’ approved leave over Christmas.

This is the first time in many years that workers at CSR Gyprock have taken strike action. One told Green Left that CSR was “shocked” they had taken action.

“The company didn’t think we had it in us”, they said. This is because CSR Gyprock paid the workers “peanuts” in the last two EBAs, according to another worker. Management managed to do this by playing workers in the warehouse and production areas off against each other.

This time, however, CSR Gyprock was not able to sew disunity because workers across the two sections united.

CSR Gyprock refusal to pay a liveable wage has not stopped two senior executives from awarding themselves $1.2 million in bonuses.

CSR is one of many corporations that has racked in profits over the pandemic. CSR’s profits skyrocketed by 30% in the half year September ending 30 to $86.6 million. CEO Julie Coats has pocketed $1 million in bonuses.

By contrast, workers worked though the lockdowns, even having to give up rostered days off to maintain production to keep up with the renovation boom.

CSR is the biggest plasterboard manufacturer in the industry and it has the lowest paid workers. Boral and Etex Australia recently gave workers a 4% and 3.5% pay rise respectively.

CSR had wanted the Fair Work Commission to cancel the industrial action, but on December 14 it refused.

The 60-member workforce has been emboldened by solidarity shown from the CFMEU, the Electrical Trades Union and the Plumbing and Pipe Trades Employees Union Vic and WA.

A sum of $161,000 has been raised so far to keep the workers and their families fed and housed.

A solidarity BBQ was organised at the picket line on December 15. A worker told GL they are determined to stay out until they win. “When we win and walk back in, things won’t be the same. People who never knew each other before because we were all on different shifts now know each other. We are united.”

[ calling on Bunnings to boycott CSR products. to the strike fund. Visit the picket line at 277 Whitehall Street, Yarraville.]