Workers at Megabolt in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Campbelfield have not had a pay rise for 10 years. This is despite working for a company that makes bolts for the rapidly expanding mining industry. The company’s production has increased by 25% in the past two years, but this hasn’t been reflected in wages.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union delegate Zelko Cimboro told Green Left Weekly that 75% of the workforce survives on the minimum wage of $15.04 an hour or $15.63 an hour.
“Workers are so poor”, he said, “that often workers have to share food and many workers have second jobs because they can’t survive on their wage.”
About a year ago, the workers got fed up and called the union. Until they brought the union in, they were denied proper dust masks and the management wouldn’t give them something as basic as a drink fountain.
For the past nine months, the workers have been trying to negotiate their first union collective agreement. Cimboro said that after nine months of stalling by the company, the workers had “had enough” and applied to Fair Work Australia to take protected industrial action.
The workers are seeking a pay rise of 20% over three years, which would see many Megabolt workers earning above the minimum wage for the first time. They want the new agreement rates to be back paid from April 1. They also want income protection, monthly RDOs, improved redundancy and improved health and safety measures including a heat policy.
On August 30, 25 union members went on strike.
There are serious health and safety issues on the job, including heavy lifting, fumes and dust. One worker was almost killed when a bolt, under twisting pressure, came apart and hit him on the head.
“There are also issues of bullying and harassment by management”, said Cimboro. “Any worker who takes sick leave, even with a doctor’s certificate, is penalised.”
The workers are especially angry that the company is making huge profits from components for the mining industry. The company gives out lots of corporate sponsorships to football clubs and horse racing, but “they won’t give the workers a cent extra”, said Cimboro.
The company is expanding, having recently built two new factories nearby.
Although the plant has remained open with 15 non-union workers and contractors working on site, the workers are confident that their action will result in a victory.
You can support the workers by visiting the picket line at: Megabolt, Glenbarry Rd, Campbellfield.