Members of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) at Fletcher Insulation near Melbourne, Australia, have vowed to continue a five-week work stoppage at the manufacturing plant.
The workers are taking protected industrial action against the glass wool manufacturing company’s demands of no pay rise, increased hours and increased use of casual labour.
The company’s offer includes no pay rise for four years, the extension of the working week by three hours, and the removal of minimum staffing levels, which is a safety concern. The company intends to make unlimited use of casual workers and drastically reduce redundancy provisions.
Fletcher Insulation is profitable, and the workers, many of whom have been at the company for more than 30 years, have set new productivity records. The company has applied to the government employment arbitrator the Fair Work Commission to terminate the current collective agreement. The current agreement has expired, but its terms remain in place until termination is agreed or a new agreement is reached.
The 90 AWU members at the site have rejected the proposed agreement and have held a picket outside the plant in Dandenong, near Melbourne, for the past 42 days.
“Production was up 20% in the last quarter of last year, and yet only weeks later these workers are told they are not worth a pay rise for four years, and the conditions under which they have worked for so long will be done away with,”
said AWU Victoria secretary Ben Davis.
“It is unfair, it is illogical and it is impossible not to arrive at the conclusion this is an ideological battle.”
Daniel Walton, AWU national secretary, said:
"These loyal and skilled workers are asking for nothing more than a fair go from their employer.
It is unacceptable for a company that has grown profitable from a highly productive workforce to turn around and slap that same workforce in the face.”
The workers have not been paid since 17 February, and are crowdfunding a strike fund to help them stand firm on the picket line.
You can donate to the strike fund here.
In a letter of solidarity to the AWU, IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches said:
“IndustriALL Global Union condemns in the strongest terms the intransigent stance of Fletcher Insulation Australia, which has failed to engage in fair negotiations with the union since August 2016, and has instead pursued an aggressive policy that would seriously undermine the workers’ fundamental rights and benefits.”
Fletcher Insulation produces heat, fire and sound insulation for residential and business properties. New Zealand-owned Fletcher took over the Dandenong factory from ACI Glass several years ago.