About 90 Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) members at Australian Paper’s Preston envelope factory returned to work victorious on March 6 after an eight-week strike, with most of the workers’ terms being met and the rest to be negotiated.
The workers struck after nine months of failed negotiations for a new enterprise bargaining agreement. Workers asked for a 2.5% annual pay rise for three years and no loss of RDOs. They also opposed a reclassification of the pay structure, called grandparenting, that would freeze pay rises for long-time staff until newer employees’ wages catch up. The company offered a 6.5% pay rise over four years and wanted to reduce the current 16 RDOs to 12.
AMWU organiser Dean Griffiths said: “It has been a win on the RDOs, they will not be touched now. Grandparenting has also been taken off the table. For pay increases, we are still sorting that out but now we are only 1% apart. We are sorting the rest of that out: the devil is in the detail.
“Everything [the workers] hit the grass for has basically been granted. They are ecstatic about keeping their conditions.
“We have had a few wins, we have been able to get the pay rises outside classifications, which has given people the confidence to go back to work. It is not all settled though, until the EBA is ratified and we have sorted out the final details.”
AMWU print assistant state secretary Tony Piccolo attributed the win to the strength and solidarity of members.
“All of these workers stood together, united behind a common goal and they won. Eight weeks is a long time on strike, but these workers were committed to ensuring they received a fair deal in the EBA. There was never any question of settling for anything less,” he said.
“It should not have to come to this for workers to get a fair pay rise when the economy is screaming out for wage growth. It is a great testament to the leadership, organisation and discipline of the union delegates Margaret and Martin, that these workers stood strong for so many weeks.”
The resolution came after the company met with the AMWU last week for their first negotiation following the strike. Earlier, the company had refused to negotiate and had asked the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to step in to mediate discussions. The FWC had called for a suspension of the strike, which was then appealed by the AMWU.
Piccolo said: “The company obviously saw that these workers were not going to accept an unfair deal and we are pleased that they’ve finally come to the table to negotiate a fair agreement.
“We are confident the company has listened and will do the right thing by the workers who are looking forward to getting their agreement finalised and getting back to work.”