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Australian Paper calls in the umpire

Wednesday, 31 January 2018
By Graham Osborne

Australian Paper at Preston, VIC.

Australia’s largest envelope manufacturer, Australian Paper, has applied for a Fair Work Commission (FWC) hearing in a bid to end a strike that has entered its third week at the company’s Preston facility and is now hitting its major customers.

About 90 AMWU members at Australian Paper in Preston begun an indefinite stop work on 16 January to protest against what they describe as management plans to strip their pay and conditions.

“The picket line is standing strong and we’re getting a lot of support from other unions and the local community,” says AMWU delegate Dean Griffiths.

“The company has now applied to the FWC for a bargaining order to get both parties back around the table before a mediator and we’re waiting to hear a date for the hearing. Apart from that, we’ve had no contact from the company, except for a generic email they’ve sent out to workers claiming that the union is lying about the outstanding issues.

“What we’re asking for are modest increases of 2.5 percent over three years. The company has offered a four-year deal with zero per cent in the first year and they’re also looking to cut RDOs.”

Griffiths says the union picket line is hitting the company’s bottom line.

“A couple of guys in the warehouse have told me they have barely any stock left and they’re out of stock for Officeworks – they can’t supply Officeworks, one of their major customers, with eleven separate lines of envelopes, paper and exercise books.

“The company is still refusing to talk to us and they’re treating the workers like a bunch of numbers. For them, it’s all about saving face and that’s why they’d rather go to the FWC then just come outside the door here and talk to us.”

In a statement last week, Craig Dunn, Australian Paper’s GM communications, said: “The discussions between Australian Paper and our employees are ongoing and remain confidential. We have measures in place to meet the needs of customers during this phase of our discussions.”

Production workers at the company’s Maryvale paper mill last year agreed to take a five per cent pay cut to secure the future of the operation. Australia’s only manufacturer of printing and packaging paper is owned by Japanese giant Nippon Paper Industries.

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