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Strike at Australian Paper enters week 6

Wednesday, 21 February 2018
By Graham Osborne

The picket line at Australian Paper, Preston VIC.

Industrial action at Australian Paper’s envelope manufacturing facility at Preston in Melbourne has entered its sixth week as 87 striking workers await a decision by the full bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

Australian Paper – owned by Japan’s Nippon Paper Group – applied to the commission three weeks ago for a suspension of the picket line after reports that the company was running low on supplies and had been forced to import envelopes from overseas to meet demand.

Commissioner Sarah McKinnon ruled in favour of the company’s application and ordered the workers to return to work.

In her decision, the commissioner wrote: Paper Australia submitted that a suspension of industrial action would be beneficial because it would enable it to focus on reaching agreement with the AMWU rather than on managing efforts to mitigate the effect of the action. It pointed to the impact of the industrial action on its ability to meet customer demands. It also said that a suspension would prevent the parties from becoming more entrenched in their positions.

However, the Victoria branch of Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) appealed the decision and won a stay of proceedings. The case went before the full board of the commission yesterday.

“We’re here on the grass outside the plant and waiting to hear the verdict from the full bench, which we expect this morning or this afternoon,” AMWU delegate Dean Griffiths said on Wednesday morning.

“If the FWC upholds the stay order, the picket line will remain in place because it will be protected industrial action. If not, we will follow the commission’s ruling.”

Griffiths said workers are seeking ‘modest’ wage increases of 2.5 percent over three years. He says the company has offered a four-year deal that included a wage freeze for one year, followed by 2 percent rises in the second and third years and 2.5 percent in the fourth.

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