28 June, 2018Workers have had enough at US-based tissue and personal care giant Kimberly Clark’s Millicent Mill in South Australia. The 265 members of IndustriALL’s proud affiliate CFMMEU have started strike action this week, announcing that they are “Fighting Back”.
The rolling industrial action is indefinite and challenges the constant threat of mill closure and job losses. Kimberly Clark’s Millicent mill is the largest employer in the South Australia South East region, with over 400 workers.
The Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union (CFMMEU) has been attempting to bargain a new collective agreement with Kimberly Clark management at the Millicent mill since 2014. This has meant a four-year stagnation of wages, which is a pay cut in real terms as cost of living increases.
Denise Campbell-Burns, President of the CFMMEU Manufacturing Division’s Pulp & Paper District said:
“Negotiations have dragged on since 2014, with wages frozen the whole time, but it is the growing uncertainty about the future of the mill and whether people will even have a job next year that is most difficult for workers to deal with.”
The company is best known for its Huggies and Kleenex brands. Despite consistently branding itself as a family company, Kimberly Clark is developing more of a reputation as an anti-union, anti-worker company. The irresponsible announcement from the company in January that over 5,000 jobs would be cut now seems to have been a move to increase the share value of the company.
But as the threat still looms that 10 plants will be closed somewhere in Kimberly Clark’s global operations; all employees face uncertainty. The Australian strikes are pushing for a modest wage increase and improved redundancy provisions in case the mill is shut.
CFMMEU members remain committed to working with Kimberly Clark to reduce costs that will ensure the ongoing viability of the mill. The union has already proposed significant long term saving measures.
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:
“We stand alongside our CFMMEU sisters and brothers at the Millicent mill, as they fight back and refuse to be held to ransom by this never-ending threat of closure. Kimberly Clark is turning its back on dedicated employees in North America, Europe, and Asia, as well as Australia. This is not a sustainable business model, and certainly damages the high-quality family brand that has been build up over the years.”