FWC to decide future of strike

Picketing workers and management from Australian Paper have sat down for a second meeting with the Fair Work Commission (FWC), which will now decide to either suspend the picket, or force the company to negotiate.

At the latest meeting held at the FWC staff representative and AMWU delegate Dean Griffith argued that the workers have always been ready to negotiate, with Australian Paper refusing to come to the table while the industrial action has taken place.

The head of Australian Paper HR, Rod Beales, was called to the witness stand and questioned by both parties, and FWC Commissioner Sarah McKinnon, as was Griffith, and Australian Paper management.

Australian Paper applied to have the picket line suspended, which can be done through sections 425 and 426 of the Fair Work Act. Companies can argue the case that the picket line is causing harm to a third party, or that the suspension of the action would be beneficial to resolving the dispute.

Griffiths says, “The company put it a request to get the picket line terminated. They put up their case, we put up our argument over keeping the line.

“We have said we are open to negotiations, but the company keeps holding ground that while action takes place it is not going to happen.

“The company tried to get a suspension, they first asked for a two week suspension, then while we were in there they expanded that to four weeks.

“The Commissioner asked me if a suspension of the picket line be helpful to getting negotiations up. I said we never put the negotiations on hold, it was the company.

“The Commissioner then asked the company why did it not deal with them. The company said Nippon (the owner) does not negotiate with employees while they take industrial action.

“She will hand down a finding following evidence, as to whether the line will be suspended, or whether we can keep the line and force the company to negotiate.”

Griffiths says he expects to hear from the FWC either this afternoon, or tomorrow morning.

“The line is still up, everyone is still on it, we are waiting for the commissioner to come up with her findings.

“Everyone is staying strong and the outstanding points are non-negotiable. We hope they put pressure on the company to force them to the tables.”

As for how the company has been operating following the month-long picket, Griffith says, “From my understanding, they are bringing envelopes in from Malaysia, the warehouse is nearly dry, and instead of going through the warehouse the orders are going straight to the customer.”

Australian Printer contacted Australian Paper for comment, but did not hear back from them prior to publication.

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