About 200 unionists rallied outside the Ausreo factory in Wetherill Park in western Sydney on August 7 in solidarity with 24 workers who were locked out by the company seven weeks ago. As the rally progressed, more Ausreo workers walked out to join the protest.
Since being locked out the workers have maintained a daily vigil outside the plant. The workers, members of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), are mostly level four machine operators and are claiming an increase in their hourly wage from $25 to $28 — the same rate as the company pays its employees at its Melbourne plant.
The AMWU says Ausreo, which supplies concrete reinforcing products to the building industry, has been stalling on a new agreement since the previous enterprise bargaining agreement ended in February. The union is also seeking improvements in redundancy provisions.
The August 7 rally was called by the AMWU and Unions NSW to express support for the Ausreo workers, who are facing severe economic hardship as the struggle goes on. The rally was addressed by NSW Labor Senator Doug Cameron, Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon and other union officials.
AMWU state secretary Tim Ayres told the crowd: "This is about a new wave of militant employers locking out workers as a first resort, and they must be shown that unions will respond and stand together with their members."
Ausreo AMWU delegate Dennis Ngo said the event gave a big morale boost to the employees, who were thrilled when about 50 United Voice members who had been locked out by another employer in Wetherill Park joined the rally to show their support.
[Donations to assist the Ausreo workers can be made through Australian Unions.]