After four years of negotiations and five votes on a new collective agreement, the CFMEU has signed an agreement with US-based tissue and personal care giant Kimberly-Clark.
Kimberly-Clark had attempted to drastically weaken terms and conditions, under the threat of closing the Millicent Tissue Mill, in South Australia. The plant employs 400 people, and produces Kleenex and other well-known brands. The Millicent Mill is the major employer in the town, with as many as 3,000 jobs depending on the plant.
In June last year, members of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) started indefinite rolling industrial action after failing to reach an agreement with the company. The stalled negotiations have meant that wages have stagnated since 2014, and workers have had no assurances that the plant would remain open.
The company announced in January 2018 that it intended to shed about 5,000 jobs globally, and close up to ten plants. IndustriALL and its sister global union UNI publicly condemned this anti-worker behaviour by Kimberly-Clark, and unions around the world sent solidarity messages.
Late last week CFMEU members voted to accept a new offer from the company that includes a wage increase of 4.5 per cent, plus a AU$1,000 cash payment.
The company also committed to maintain staff on some equipment lines until 2021, and to agree training priorities for new career paths jointly with the union. However, the threat of plant closure remains.
Alex Millar, CFMEU pulp and paper workers district secretary, and chair of the IndustriALL pulp and paper sector in Asia-Pacific, said:
“Our members at Millicent have shown that by standing united, workers can win out against these attacks and threats by corporations. By their attempts to remove workers’ conditions, Kimberly-Clark has lost much more than they could ever have won, destroying 30 years of industrial harmony at the mill. Because of their actions it will take a very long time if ever for this company to win back the trust of the workers.”
IndustriALL director for the paper sector, Tom Grinter, said:
“Once again the CFMEU shows how to stand strong for members and refuse a major cut in terms and conditions. Kimberly-Clark has seriously damaged its self-branding as a family friendly company. This is especially true in the US, Australia, and Europe. The horrible threat of mass plant closures without providing details, or committing to genuine union dialogue, is unforgivable.”