Envelope owner asks for mediation

The picket line at Australian Paper’s Preston manufacturing plant, the country’s largest  envelope manufacturer producing a billion envelopes a year, has hit the two week marker, with the company calling for the Fair Work Commission to mediate discussions.

At the same time the AMWU claims the company is running short on stock, although other envelope manufacturers have not yet noticed any uptake in demand, but say they have the capacity to handle any change.

Candida, which recently closed its Sydney plant to consolidate all manufacturing in Adelaide, and Melbourne’s Express Envelopes, are the country’s number two and three envelope manufacturers.

Australian Paper is keeping its counsel, but says, “We have measures in place to meet the needs of our customers during this phase of the discussions.” The company is the major supplier for long run envelopes, working with government departments, banks, telcos and utilities, and supplying retail outlets such as OfficeWorks.

The dispute is centred around pay increases, and RDOs, with workers requesting a 2.5 per cent annual rise and no loss of RDOs, claiming that management wants to grandfather pay increases for long-time staff while newer additions catch up.

Dean Griffith, AMWU organiser says, “The picket line is thick and strong. Management has applied for an Section 11, a mediation between two parties. It is paperwork for mediation, so for the Fair Work Commission to mediate between the two parties.

“Apart from that, there has been no communication. They have said that negotiations are ongoing, but we have not had any negotiation with them. They are just covering their backs.

“There are still outstanding issues, everyone is staying strong, we are waiting for the paperwork. Whatever the outcome of the mediation, the members will have to vote yes or no, so the picket line will stay in place.

“From what I’ve been told, there is one machine running out of the twenty five. Speaking to the warehouse guys, they are almost out of stock.

“We have had good support from the posties, as we produce envelopes. The Post Office union is giving a lot of support. CFMEU has been down, Andrew Giles MP has been down, and the nurses union. Andrew Giles said he would take it up with Parliament when he gets down.

“Even the locals are coming down and dropping off food and drinks for people on the picket line like a community.”

Melbourne-based envelope manufacturer Express Envelopes says there has not been much extra work picked up since the picket began, though it has to capacity to handle it.

Trevor Franklin, national sales manager, Express Envelopes, says, “We have had minimal extra work. I have spoken to a couple of other manufacturers, there has been a little bit of fallout but it is not that great.

“But there is plenty of capacity left to pick up any slack. While Express may produce lower total volume than AP it is the third largest manufacturer in the country.

“Express Envelopes manufacture the base envelopes on web machines, but also convert flat sheet as well. We have the capacity to pick up the slack.

There has been a significant downturn in mail over the years. Many companies have collapsed or been consolidated.

“We have large web machines here that produce flexo quality printing, the same as Candida and AP guys do. We also have flat sheet conversion capabilities for all specials. Our main competitor was Wiggs, before their consolidation and buyout by Candida.

“We are an envelope manufacturer in Dandenong with web and conversion facilities, overprint capabilities in Melbourne and Sydney, and representation in Brisbane.”

Australian Paper says it has nothing to add from its original comment, “The discussions we have been having remain confidential between Australian Paper and our employees at Preston. Australian Paper is committed to reaching an agreement that represents the best outcome for the company and our employees. We are not sure how long the current situation will continue, but we are seeking to reach a mutual acceptable outcome at the earliest time."

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