Spicers strike over as deal struck

Spicers and the union representing its warehouse and trucking staff have thrashed out a compromise to end a strike that shut down its Melbourne site and threatened Victorian paper supply.

Workers assembled full-scale picket lines outside both the merchant’s Dandenong sites early yesterday morning after wage negotiations broke down last week.

Printers who were facing paper shortages from the country’s biggest paper merchant can today breathe a sigh of relief as the site is functioning normally and deliveries have resumed.

[Related: The ups and downs of Paperlinx]

The two sides agreed on a new enterprise bargaining agreement at a meeting between Spicers general manager Ken Booth and its regional manager Paul Cruickshank and National Union of Workers delegates.

Both are claiming victory as the compromise deal extracts concessions from their positions when negotiations broke down on Friday and prompted the strike.

NUW lead organiser Chris Calvert says Spicers caved on proposed significant caps on redundancy payouts and sick leave entitlements on termination, while the workers abandoned demands for bigger wage increases.

According to the union, the three-year agreement maintains the status quo with annual two per cent wage increases and leaves all other conditions unchanged.

“Spicers pushed hard for redundancy changes but have thankfully withdrawn them and we can put the issue to bed with a new agreement,” Calvert says.

Booth says all staff were back at work at 6am today and the Victorian operation is back to full capability.

“We are convinced that a two per cent wage increase is more than fair. The conditions we put forward were very generous and they should be happy with what they have got,” he says.

“What is important is that everyone is back at work and printers can get their paper.”

The new agreement was voted on by workers still on the picket line late yesterday and union officials called those who had gone home to get their vote, with a clear majority in favour. It is hoped to be officially confirmed next week.

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