FULL-TIME employees at GrainCorp’s Port Kembla terminal have today started five days of industrial action in a bid to have their wages increased.
According to an Australian Workers Union statement, the 10 employees have been negotiating with GrainCorp since December ahead of the expiry in March of the site-specific enterprise agreement.
AWU NSW state secretary Tony Callinan told Grain Central three ships were due to be loaded over coming days.
GrainCorp’s shipping stem indicates two wheat cargoes totalling 98,000 tonnes will be affected.
“Our members operate the shiploader, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the site,” Mr Callinan said, adding that such equipment can only be operated by appropriately trained personnel.
“Our members are out for five days.”
Over the 12 months to March, the Australian Consumer Price Index indicates inflation is sitting at 7 percent, and Mr Callinan said 4-5pc wage increases were “now the norm”.
“Our members aren’t accepting 2s and 3s any more.”
“I’ve said to GrainCorp, and the media, they are one of the main employers in these regional towns; any more they earn…they are spending in their local communities.”
GrainCorp has been contacted for comment, and neither the AWU nor GrainCorp have advised what percentage increase workers at the Port Kembla site are seeking, or how much GrainCorp has offered.
Mr Callinan said GrainCorp’s strong financial performance in recent years make the company able to accommodate the request for a substantial wage rise which was not sought during the preceding drought years.
Casuals warned off
AWU has stated that 12 casuals employed through a labour-hire company have been advised by GrainCorp that they must report for rostered shifts during the five-day stoppage if they wish to keep working at the site.
“Casual employees are not covered by the enterprise agreement; it’s just a bully tactic that’s not unusual from GrainCorp,” Mr Callinan told Grain Central.
The Fair Work Commission has authorised industrial action by the AWU workers.
“GrainCorp management are so out of touch they think it is OK to threaten insecure, casual workers with the sack while full-time workers legally withdraw their labour,” Mr Callinan said in the statement.
“It is a fundamental right of any worker in Australia to participate in protected industrial action sanctioned by the Fair Work Commission and GrainCorp shouldn’t be threatening the rest of the workforce”.
“This is a classic use of vulnerable casual labour hire workers to undermine the full-time workforce.”
GrainCorp is eastern Australia’s largest bulk handler, and operates seven grain terminals in eastern Australia stretching from Mackay in Queensland to Portland in Victoria.
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