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Australian unions tell Ansell AGM: protest postponed for Sri Lanka solution

15 October, 2015Leaders from three Australian trade unions spoke at the Ansell Annual Shareholders Meeting, in Melbourne, on 8 October to raise the labour dispute with the company in Sri Lanka.

The TCFUA, AMWU and CFMEU postponed a planned rally at the AGM in light of recent dialogue with the company during which Ansell committed to work together toward a solution in Sri Lanka. Around 290 Ansell Lanka workers were unfairly dismissed for union activities in 2013 and their reinstatement is needed for the dispute to be resolved.

The four participants at the AGM were Michele O’Neil (TCFUA), Andrew Dettmer (AMWU), Lorraine Usher (CFMEU) and Peter Colley (CFMEU).

The unions made it clear that their campaign would continue until the violations in Sri Lanka are reversed. The union group informed the shareholders of a disturbing pattern of disputes and poor labour relations at Ansell in Brazil, India, Malaysia and Portugal.

Michele O’Neil, representing Australian unions and IndustriALL Global Union, said from the AGM floor:

“Trade unions appreciate that the company has recently made efforts concerning the resolution of the dispute. However, we wish to see further urgent progress to a firm mechanism for reinstating those of the 290 workers who want to return the to company.

Our wish is that “Ansell Protects” will apply not only to your products but to the rights of the workers who make them.”

Andrew Dettmer of the AMWU asked:
“A substantial proportion of the company’s workforce at many locations is unionized. What processes will the company put in place to ensure that industrial disputes are either prevented, or resolved early, through active engagement with the unions representing your workers?”

Responding to the union statement and question, the Ansell management committed to meeting the IndustriALL affiliated FTZGSEU in Sri Lanka in November. The senior management also committed to continue working with the unions towards a fair solution.

IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina states:
“Ansell knows that we won’t go away until our members in Sri Lanka have been treated with the respect they are owed. We respect the company’s commitment to work with us. My message to the company is, let’s together make Ansell a good news story, with good products being made in good conditions, with genuine social dialogue that fixes disputes before they escalate.”