Note Printing dispute draws to close

Note Printing Australia (NPA) is finally coming to an agreement with its workers, granting all conditions except the pay rise they were asking for, after three months of industrial action.

As its staff demanded, the banknote and passport printer based in Craigieburn, Victoria, is granting five days of standalone domestic and family violence leave, casual conversion changes including instantaneous conversion to permanent work for some long term casual workers and improved consultation on contractors. Workers have settled for a 2.5 per cent wage increase instead of 3.5 per cent, as they originally asked.

The agreement comes after NPA, which is owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), locked half its workers out last week, with the half striking in solidarity.

Tony Piccolo, assistant state secretary for the AMWU says, “After three long months, it is not a bad result. We were after three key terms, that was labour hire conversion, standalone domestic violence leave and the pay increase.

“The company improved its offer. While the money is important, the concessions on the two other terms made the 2.5 per cent increase more palatable.

“With the lockout, the organiser came forward and said we have the option of indefinite action or we can settle with this agreement. The negotiation team recommended it to the floor and they voted to go with it.”

NPA declined to comment.

[Related: Note Printing shuts out staff]

The number of workers being converted now from casual to permanent under the agreement along with the proportion of casual to permanent workers unclear, but Piccolo says the term was significant for employees.

“The casual hiring clause was important, a lot of people who are now full time employees had been casuals for four or five years beforehand and they had found it undermining. Previously the clause was to the effect of the company saying after 12 months of employment, they would consider permanent employment. I can consider giving someone something, but it does not mean I will do it.

“There are now further parameters around what the clause will need to entail.”

Previously, NPA had offered five days of domestic violence leave, but only when workers had used all other leave they were entitled to. The union says the clause was key to negotiations, with workers saying they could have used standalone domestic violence leave in the past.

Piccolo says, “Maintaining financial independence and support from the workplace is critical for people trying to escape situations of family violence. We had workers at NPA who previously did not have access to upfront family and domestic violence leave when they needed it, so it was paramount that they won this entitlement in their agreement this time around.”

The dispute ensued after months of failed negotiations at NPA, which is owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). The union has criticised Phillip Lowe, head of the RBA, as he addressed a parliamentary committee saying the RBA would like to see wage increases above three per cent.

Piccolo says, “It was pretty galling to hear the RBA governor call for 3.5 per cent pay rises in one breath, and then refuse that same pay rise to their own subsidiary’s workers in the next. Just yesterday we heard again that Australian wages are basically going backwards.

“The resolution is a testament to the site sticking together, when the company being steadfast and saying it would not give above two per cent. The unity among workers was amazing. It is also a testament to the negotiating of representatives at AMWU.”

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