Posts Tagged ‘AMWU’

  • Banknote printers claim they have been bludgeoned back to work

    Note Printing Australia at Craigieburn, Victoria.

    Workers at the Reserve Bank’s banknote printing business Note Printing Australia (NPA) have ended their industrial action and voted to accept a 2.5% pay increase after the company threatened an indefinite lockout, according to the AMWU.

    “We came to a resolution at a mass meeting last night to accept the deal, so all the bans are now off and the workers have returned to normal duties,” says AMWU print organiser Mick Bull. “It was not a unanimous vote but it was comprehensive, with about 80% of workers in favour.

    “It’s a disappointing result but we’ve been bludgeoned into accepting it after the company threatened an indefinite lockout of workers. The workers are not happy, they’re pissed off, but the company wouldn’t budge and threatened to lock out everyone indefinitely.”

    In a statement, the AMWU’s head office described the agreement as a win for workers.

    Union members at Note Printing Australia (NPA) are celebrating after voting up an enterprise agreement that delivers significant wins in their wages and conditions. After almost 3 months of protected action, NPA improved their offer to the workers to include: 5 days of standalone domestic and family violence leave; casual conversion changes including instantaneous conversion to permanent work for some long-term casual workers; improved consultation on contractors; and a 2.5% wage rise per year for the 3 year agreement.

    AMWU Assistant State Secretary for Print Tony Piccolo hailed the workers for taking a stand for a better deal and leading the way for other workers around the country to fight for improved pay rises, secure jobs, and standalone paid family and domestic violence leave.

    “It was pretty galling for the workers to hear the RBA Governor call for 3.5% pay rises in one breath and then refuse that same pay rise to their own subsidiary’s workers in the next,” he said. “Just yesterday we heard again that Australian wages are basically going backwards – not keeping up with CPI and cost of living. But in the end it wasn’t just about the pay rise. The workers were willing to accept 2.5% as long as they received the upfront domestic and family violence leave clause in their agreement and secure jobs for casual workers.

    “It really shouldn’t come to this, for workers to have to strike and sacrifice a few days pay to win a fair wage rise in their agreement, when everyone agrees that Australians need a pay rise. It’s another clear-cut example of why we need to change the rules,” said Piccolo.

    Note Printing Australia locked out half its work force last Friday in retaliation for ongoing industrial action by the AMWU, provoking the remaining workers to go on a one-day strike in support. The workers returned to the Craigieburn plant on Monday but had maintained work bans on overtime and software implementation in support of a pay rise of 3.5% – compared to the NPA’s offer of 2.5%.

    “The deal we’ve agreed on is for a 2.5% wage increase that will be underpinned by wage indexation, so if that’s higher then we go to the higher rate,” said Bull. “At the moment, it stands at 2.1% and if it goes over 2.5% in years two and three then we will get the higher amount. We’ve also agreed on five days upfront domestic violence leave per annum and we’ve received a commitment to discuss the issue of long-term casuals, some of whom have been in the job seven or eight years.”

    The AMWU negotiated a separate agreement with RBA white collar workers, mostly based in Sydney. They will receive a 2% pay rise which could increase up to 5% with bonuses.

    Note Printing Australia is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

  • Nine to buy Fairfax in $4 billion takeover

    Fairfax Media and Nine have announced a $4 billion deal which will see the formation of Australia’s largest media company, bringing together Fairfax’s print assets and Nine’s broadcast outlets.

    Under the terms of the deal, announced on the ASX the morning of Thursday January 26, Nine will take over the 177-year-old media organisation, scrapping the Fairfax name and incorporating its existing assets including mastheads The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age into the combined company’s operations.

    Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood.

    In a note to staff, Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood said there would be “plenty of Fairfax DNA” in the new entity and its Board. “Over the last eight years, Fairfax Media has gone from being at the mercy of the non-stop global media revolution to being best of its breed, and that is why Nine wants to merge their business with ours,” he said. “At the end of this process, the business will be a media company of scale, depth of offering, and digital capacity and opportunities like no other in our region.”

    If the deal goes through, shareholders of Nine will own 51.1 percent of the new company, to be called NEC (Nine Entertainment Company), with Fairfax shareholders comprising the other 48.9 percent. Nine’s Hugh Marks and Peter Costello will remain in their respective positions as CEO and Chairman. “Both Nine and Fairfax have played an important role in shaping the Australian media landscape over many years,” said Costello. “The combination of our businesses and our people best positions us to deliver new opportunities and innovations for our shareholders, staff and all Australians in the years ahead.”

    Lorraine Cassin, AMWU.

    The AMWU warns of potential job losses from the merger, which comes a week after Fairfax and News Corp announced a deal to share printing facilities, shuttering two Fairfax plants in NSW and Queensland. Lorraine Cassin, national print secretary at AMWU, said the union would work with management to ensure the industry would remain viable and continue delivering high-quality print journalism. “Just because the name of Fairfax is gone, it doesn’t mean that the important role of print journalism should go with it. Every job lost or the outsourcing of services by sending them offshore, means tighter deadlines and less time for quality control. This will inevitably result in a further reduction in the quality of journalism,” she said.

    Journalists’ union MEAA (Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance) has come out strongly against the deal, with Marcus Strom, president of MEAA Media, urging the ACCC to oppose it. “This takeover reduces media diversity. It threatens the editorial independence of great news rooms at Nine, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Canberra Times, Illawarra Mercury, Newcastle Herald, Macquarie Media and more – right around the country. It harms the ability of an independent media to scrutinise and investigate the powerful, threatens the functioning of a healthy democracy, and undermines the quality journalism that our communities rely on for information,” he said.

    The ACCC has confirmed it will look into the deal, with a spokesperson saying the consumer watchdog will evaluate whether competition in any market will be substantially lessened. “When reviewing mergers in the media sector, the ACCC considers the competition impact on consumers (both readers and viewers), advertisers and content creators/sellers,” the spokesperson said. “The impact of technology on the media sector will be a critical part of the competition analysis.”

  • Fairfax print closures ‘just the beginning’

    Fairfax Media printing plant at Ormiston, Brisbane.

    The AMWU says the ‘devastating’ closures of Fairfax newspaper printing plants at Ormiston in Brisbane and Beresfield in Newcastle could be just the beginning, with the North Richmond site next in the firing line.

    “This is just the start of further consolidation in the newspaper sector in Australia,” says AMWU Queensland print division secretary Danny Dougherty. “It’s just the beginning. They could shut down North Richmond next then move on to the sites in Melbourne.”

    Former rivals Fairfax Media and News Corp this week announced a ‘landmark’ plan to share their printing networks in a consolidation restructure that will see Fairfax close its Ormiston and Beresfield printing centres with the loss of more than 120 print jobs.

    Fairfax at North Richmond.

    As part of the deal, Fairfax metropolitan newspapers currently produced at North Richmond, including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review, will now be printed at News Corp Chullora.

    “This change will open up print windows allowing North Richmond to absorb work from Fairfax’s Beresfield site, including for a number of ACM titles, as well as some products for News Corp,” Fairfax said in a statement. “The announced changes will impact printing schedules at the North Richmond site. Once the transition of work is complete, the company will assess its operations, including rostering and staffing levels, and consult and engage with staff regarding any changes that may be necessary.”

    Doughtery says the announcement this week took the workers by surprise. “There were no discussions. They were called into a meeting at Ormiston on Wednesday morning and told their jobs were gone. It’s very hard for people in these situations. No-one’s prepared. It all happened very quickly and they’re shocked and devastated.”

    At least 55 printing workers lost their jobs at the Brisbane plant and another 70 people are out the door at Beresfield in Newcastle, NSW.

    “Then there’s the flow on effect to people like the drivers who are delivering the papers,” says Doughtery. “We’re still not sure what’s happening in other parts of the company, with people who work in digital, as well as editors and journalists. There’s talk that Fairfax will sell the building.”

    ‘Our members are angry’: Lorraine Cassin, AMWU.

    Lorraine Cassin, national secretary of the AMWU printing division, says the union will meet with Fairfax to discuss any further changes to the operation at North Richmond, which recently completed a $20 million upgrade.

    “We were blindsided by the announcement and our members are angry,” says Cassin. “Fairfax Media has indicated all affected employees will be paid their full entitlements but we know that these closures will hit hard and we will be working with the company to identify redeployment opportunities.

    “While Fairfax Media has stated that the rationalisation is designed to effect ‘efficiencies,’ we urge the company to recognise that its highly skilled printers have given many years of loyal service to the newspaper industry.”

    Mass meetings of sacked workers will be held on Monday.

  • ‘Some movement’ in banknote action: AMWU

    Note Printing Australia at Craigieburn, Victoria.

    Note Printing Australia (NPA) has given ground in its standoff with workers engaged in industrial action, increasing its pay offer and signalling a willingness to resolve a classification review.

    Tony Piccolo.

    According to Tony Piccolo, assistant secretary for print at AMWU Victoria, bans on overtime, material handling, and the use of some software applications have cut productivity at NPA’s Craigieburn plant by 20 percent, and management has shown ‘some movement’ towards resolving the situation that led workers to launch industrial action on May 25. “The company upped the wage offer to 2.5 percent in a meeting yesterday, and we’re confident we can get some resolution over the updates to classification structure, which just leaves the negotiations over the pay increase, domestic violence leave, and casual conversion for labour hire,” he said.

    Though the unions are preparing to apply for further protected action if necessary, Piccolo is optimistic that an agreement between workers and management is not far off. “Yesterday’s meeting was positive and we’re hoping that the movement from the company will get us to where we need to be. I’m confident both parties want a resolution sooner rather than later,” he said.

    Note Printing Australia is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank, whose governor Phillip Lowe called for a 3.5 percent increase in wages across the country in February. Piccolo has challenged NPA management, and the RBA, to lead by example. “The members just want a fair agreement that delivers the wage rises the RBA itself is calling for,” he said.

    NPA has produced Australian banknotes for more than 100 years, evolving from T.S. Harrison’s original print works that produced Australia’s first circulating banknote series in 1913. The RBA declined to comment.

  • Union calls on government to back apprentice wage increase

    The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is once again calling on the government to back a minimum wage increase for apprentices and trainees in the printing and other manufacturing trades market sector.

    The union (AMWU) says that a study it carried out of apprentice wages has ‘blown a hole’ in company complaints to the Fair Work Commission that they can’t afford to pay first year trainees a better wage.

    The study of 253 apprentices showed that the AMWU’s case to boost the first-year wage to above half the adults’ trade rate would add no more than 2.53 per cent to the wage bill for apprentices.

    ACTU secretary Dave Oliver (left) and AMWU president Andrew Dettmer (right) hear apprentices tell their stories to the media outside the Fair Work Commission in March.

    The total increase to manufacturing employers’ overall expenses would be just 0.07 per cent.

    The findings were presented to a Fair Work Commission wage case led by the AMWU. Witnesses at the hearing told of the struggle some have in trying to survive on pay well below the minimum wage – as little as $7.80 an hour for first-years.

    Commissioners were told some apprentices could not afford to pay for accommodation when doing block release training in another town or city, with ‘couch surfing’ among friends common.

    The manager of auto apprenticeships at the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, Nigel Muller, also gave evidence that during his time as a trainer at Box Hill he saw apprentices sleeping in their cars overnight as the only way to attend TAFE.

    The AMWU joined with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and other unions in making the case for raising the wages of first year apprentices to 50-60 per cent of the adult trades’ rate, which would be the first boost in 33 years.

    A prime aim of the union’s wage increase campaign is to stop the high dropout rate among apprentices.

    The union is also seeking to boost retention by dropping the adult apprentice starting age from 21 to 20 and to ensure employers pay TAFE training fees and travel expenses.

    “Our survey asked apprentice members what concerned them and they told us stories of real hardship,” said the head of the AMWU’s research unit, Sally Taylor. “It’s low wages, travel costs and not enough workplace instruction, advice or opportunity to practice new skills. Apprentices don’t want to be used as cheap labour.”

    The cost findings for manufacturing employers were presented to the Commission’s inquiry by AMWU economist Nixon Apple, who drew on the survey work of the union’s research unit headed by Taylor.

    The AMWU’s study of apprentices found it was common practice across the metals trades to pay over the award, minimising the overall cost impact to employers if the AMWU’s rises were granted.

    Because the AMWU claim was largely targeted at first-year apprentices and adult apprentices, the impact of the pay rise is strictly limited.

    “We would suggest to the Commission that it is hard to envisage a realistic scenario where the AMWU proposed changes represent more than a three per cent weighted average increase in the apprentice wages bill of (manufacturing) employers,” Apple said.

    The AMWU’s formal claim for a junior apprentice with Year 10 school-standard is a 19 per cent pay increase, from $7.80 per hour to $9.29 per hour.

    Apple said that if the inquiry decided not to grant the union’ claim it would “further entrench the negative perception” of apprenticeships in manufacturing.

    Such perceptions “are considered by both business and union leaders as a major impediment to the future success of the industry.”

    The Commissioners have now heard all evidence from unions and employers and have adjourned to consider their decision, which is expected in the next few months.