The AMWU is waiting on a response from Note Printing Australia (NPA), after the company locked its workers out in retaliation to staff taking industrial action, with NPA refusing to grant them a 3.5 per cent pay rise among other conditions.
The union says the board at the NPA, owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has refused to meet with their negotiating team directly before the lockout, with staff starting a petition attempting to entice the company to come to the table.
NPA workers at the Craigieburn, Victoria based site, are responsible for producing banknotes for Australia and other countries, along with the polymer sections of Australian passports. The union claims production for both cash and passports are now delayed, also affecting the release of the new $50 banknote, which was due to be circulated in October.
Mick Bull, organiser with the AMWU says, “We are trying to get a meeting with the company, we have contacted them and are still waiting for a response.
“The company locked out half of its workers, the other half went on strike out of solidarity. The lockout was a retaliation to our bans being escalated. We have enacted more software bans and more general work bans.”
Contrarily, a spokesperson for the RBA says, “The Reserve Bank works closely with Note Printing Australia to ensure there is an adequate supply of banknotes. We plan and maintain banknote holdings to meet growth in circulation, fluctuations in demand and production disruptions.
“We have adequate supplies to continue to meet demand for cash. We are also well advanced in printing the new $50 and remain on track for it to enter general circulation in October as planned.”
[Related: Union hopeful for Note Printing resolution]
The union says the industrial action – which began around three months ago and has included overtime bans and limited use of certain machinery – has already impacted banknote and passport production.
Tony Mavromatis, manufacturing coordinator, AMWUsays, “NPA is the only facility in Australia that is able to do this crucial section of Australian Passports, so this lockout is highly likely to delay the printing of banknotes and also of passports.
“The RBA and NPA’s refusal to pay fair wages to hard-working people with highly specialised skills is not only unfair to the workers and plainly hypocritical, but it is now going to throw out the travel plans for other Australians whose passports could be delayed.”
The dispute ensued after months of failed negotiations at NPA. 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.
Mavromatis says, “It is unbelievable behaviour from NPA and the Reserve Bank. First, RBA Governor Philip Lowe tells employers to lift wages to boost household incomes and keep the economy on track. So the workers in RBA’s subsidiary try to do exactly that: they ask for the 3.5 per cent wage rise Philip Lowe said the economy needs, but the NPA say no and locks them out. What a disgrace.
Bull says, “We are seeking a wage increase along with domestic violence paid leave. They have offered five paid days, but only to be used once you have have used up all your other leave.”
“We had a meeting with the workers last Tuesday and there was an overwhelming response to seek a better outcome.
“They also have a lot of long term casuals, who have been with the company for around eight to nine years. You cannot keep workers on casual employment like that, NPA gets around it by using labour hire. It is disgraceful, it gets them out of their obligations to giving them entitlements.”
Mavromatis says, “NPA are also refusing to update its staff’s classifications, to agree to upfront access to paid domestic violence leave or to offer pathways to permanency for long-term labour hire casuals.
“This could all be resolved by the Reserve Bank and NPA Board quickly if they agreed to come and meet constructively with workers.
“Instead, the NPA and RBA’s misguided refusal to give the workers a fair deal and locking them out to punish their efforts means that Australians are potentially going to have their travel plans thrown out by delays to passport production.
“It is simple for Philip Lowe – end the hypocrisy and give these hard-working Australians the pay rise you have been calling for.”
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