Australian Paper fails to settle strike

A Fair Work Commission (FWC) hearing has failed to resolve a dispute between Australian Paper and its workers at its Preston plant over working conditions and pay in a new EBA, while the workers’ strike is entering its fourth week.

Australian Paper’s Preston site is the country’s biggest envelope manufacturer, producing more than two billion envelopes a year. The union now claims the company is having to import envelopes to maintain supply.

Dean Griffiths, organiser with the AMWU says, “The picket line is still going. The commission hearing last week was unsuccessful. The company was saying that we are happy to talk but they are still holding a gun to our heads saying they will not negotiate until we stop the picket.

“We had a meeting with the workers yesterday, and they have decided to stay out on the grass until the negotiations are successful.

[Related: Australian Paper at FWC today]

“It was myself and two delegates at the hearing and some representatives from the company. The commissioner could only do so much. He understands both sides, but he is only the mediator and he can only make suggestions. The company wants the workers to stop picketing before they make moves but the guys out there are sticking to their guns.

"The company is trying to get another hearing with the Fair Work Commission, so for now we will have to wait and see when that is.

“We know the company is hurting. They are importing a lot of stuff and they are losing money over this EBA, which they are holding onto to try and save money, which makes no sense. The warehouse guys have told us that there are envelopes coming in and going straight out to the customers rather than through the warehouse.”

The dispute has come about after nine months of failed negotiations for a new EBA. Workers have asked for a 2.5 per cent annual pay rise for three years and no loss of RDOs, and are against a reclassification of the pay structure which they claim will freeze pay increases for long time staff until newer employees’ wages catch up. The company has offered a total 6.5 per cent pay rise over four years and wants to reduce the current 16 RDOs to 12.

Andrew Giles, the member of Sculin, an electorate bordering the region where the Preston plant sits, acknowledged the strike in a speech to Parliament last week, praising the workers and the union. Giles has visited the protestors, along with other unions including Nurses and Midwifes, Australia Post’s union, CWU and CFMEU.

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