Posts Tagged ‘AMWU’

  • 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.