Australian Paper demands workers return

Australian Paper workers are still picketing outside the company’s envelope and stationery manufacturing plant in Preston, after starting the protest last Tuesday.

The company wants the union to call off the picket before it will negotiate, while the union is refusing to stop the protest until its demands are met.

Dean Griffiths, union organiser with the AMWU says, “We had an email exchange with the company. They said they were willing to negotiate as long as we stop corporate action. We know what that means, they will take us into the office, give us the same terms and we will get nothing. So we are going to keep going and everyone is still determined.”

Craig Dunn, senior marketing manager with Australian Paper says, “The situation is unchanged from the company’s perspective.”

[Related: Australian Paper workers on strike]

Around 90 workers stopped work and formed a picket line after nine months of failed negotiations  for a new enterprise agreement. The factory staff have requested a 2.5 per cent annual wage increase over three years and the company in response is offering a 6.5 per cent pay increase over four years, with a pay rise freeze for the first year, followed by 2 per cent, 2 per cent, and 2.5 per cent increases over the next three years. Those picketing say they only want the same rise given to the warehouse workers, which was 2.5 per cent.

Other issues in the dispute include the reduction of the staff’s rostered days off from 16 to 12 and a reclassification of the workplace structure which would define pay for roles as lower than what some workers currently receive, potentially meaning that it could take years for some workers to see a pay rise.

The site at Preston manufactures a significant percentage of the country’s envelopes, and is the biggest local manufacturer, it sells into the volume market. Melbourne and Sydney have other envelope manufacturers but they are operating on a much smaller scale. Candida Envelopes late last year week announced it was closing its Sydney envelope manufacturing site and switching production to its Adelaide operation.

The Australian Paper Preston factory is one of the company’s two plants, the other being its paper mill in the Victorian town of Maryvale. Australian Paper says the plant produces two billion envelopes annually. It was one of the main suppliers of envelopes during last year’s federal marriage law plebiscite.

Australian Paper was founded in Melbourne in 1868. It currently employs more than 1,300 staff.

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