FWC meeting fails to resolve picket

A Fair Work Commission (FWC) mediated meeting between workers at Australian Paper’s Preston plant and management has failed to resolve the long-running picket.

The unsuccessful meeting took place on Friday afternoon, and a second planned meeting has been postponed.

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. The picket line began when nine-month long negotiations between management and staff broke down four weeks ago.

Nearing its fifth week, there have been no signs of the workers abandoning the picket without what they would consider a satisfactory outcome. AMWU organiser Dean Griffiths says that management has refused to negotiate while the industrial action is taking place, and says the staff will not return to work while there is no settlement, setting up an impasse.

Griffiths also says that supplies are running low at the Preston site, having conferred with warehouse workers.

“We have heard from people inside the warehouse that they are quickly running out of envelopes. Officeworks is running out of its premium line of envelopes, other customers are facing delays in getting their orders filled.”

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.

A big downturn in mail volumes, combined with increased prices from Australia Post has hit the envelope manufacturing sector.

Candida, one of the biggest players in envelope manufacturing is resizing to a smaller production facility, and is in the process of laying off staff.

Ben Westall, managing director, Candida Stationery, says, “We are affected by Australia Post and their prices, and we have found it will be more cost effective for us to have a reduction in our business. We will have a smaller run, and it will be faster and more effective.

“We have had to resize so we will have to let some staff go. They are being paid appropriately and we will be helping them with the transition.”

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