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Australian Paper plays hardball on wages

Friday, 09 March 2018
By Print21

Australian Paper’s factory at Preston in Melbourne.

Talks between Australian Paper and the AMWU over the dispute that led to an eight-week strike at the company’s envelope factory in Preston are now focused on a 0.5% difference in the size of a proposed wage increase.

The 87 striking workers – who make envelopes, playing cards and school books – agreed to return to work this week after the company bowed to two other key union demands: to keep all existing Rostered Days Off (RDOs), and to dump the grandfathering of wages system.

But there’s still no agreement on a proposed wage increase and talks are continuing between company representatives and union delegates at Preston.

The workers are seeking what the AMWU describes as a ‘modest’ wage rise of 2.5% over three years. Before the strike, the company had offered a four-year deal that included a wage freeze in the first year, 2% rises in the second and third years and 2.5% in the fourth.

Australian Paper has now reportedly increased its offer to 2% for the first two years and 2.5% in the third, as negotiations continue.

“The last sticking point now is the money,” says a AMWU spokesperson. “The major attacks on conditions were at forefront of people’s minds and these have been squared away. But talks continue over the money.

“Some workers who’ve been there for 20 years are still earning only $21 an hour. The company has moved from its initial position and increased its offer and we’re confident that we’re really close to a settlement.”

Australia’s largest manufacturer of paper and envelopes is owned by Japanese-based Nippon Paper Industries, one of the largest paper and packaging companies in the world. Nippon posted a profit of ¥7.6 billion ($A92 million) in the nine months to December 2017.

A worker at Australian Paper, Preston.

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