“Join your union and bargain together” is the lesson from the recent pay campaign by EDI-Downer workers, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) NSW assistant secretary Corey Wright told Green Left Weekly.
A three-day strike involving mass meetings, rallies and a march of 200 workers down Newcastle’s Hunter Street, encouraged the company to start serious discussions with the union after six months of stalling.
A major engineering, construction and maintenance contractor, EDI-Downer, has been riding the infrastructure boom with after-tax profits of $195 million last financial year.
Their sites include Newcastle’s light rail construction, power stations (Eraring and Bayswater), coal mines (Mount Thorley and Mount Arthur), Williamtown RAAF base, and the Orica fertilizer plant in Newcastle, as well as the Port Kembla steelworks.
While senior managers receive bonuses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, workers have been living through a two year wage freeze and reductions to allowances and redundancy pay.
The 400 EDI-Dower workers, members of the AMWU and Electrical Trades Union, were determined to win back some of the ground lost under the outgoing agreement. They marched along part of the light rail route in Newcastle chanting “Stand up fight back”.
For many of the EDI Downer workers this was their first experience of a strike.
With the agreement now being finalised, the campaign won 2.5%, 3% and 3% annual rises over the life of the agreement, as well as a $200 sign on bonus, showing indeed the worth of “Stand up fight back”.