Nation-wide campaign at Amcor
A dispute at Amcor Fibre Packaging in Athol Park, Adelaide, is a result of the company's drive to reduce the wages and conditions of its more than 2000 strong workforce around the country. Last week the 180 workers at the South Australian plant set up a 48-hour picket in response to the company's refusal to deliver on basic issues, including workers' entitlements, casual workers' rights, health and safety and the recognition of the union and its delegates. The Athol Park dispute is part of a national campaign by the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) for an enterprise bargaining agreement with Amcor. The company is attempting to sidetrack a national agreement and instead, have specific agreements for each of its plants in order to undermine the collective strength of the workforce. "At this stage the union is going through the log of claims and trying to resolve some key issues", AMWU Organiser, Craig Larner, told The Guardian. These include wages and an improved redundancy package. The company wants redundancy payments to be three weeks for every year of employment, whereas four weeks is the industry standard. "We say that's unacceptable and so do our members." The company refuses to budge on the need for more stringent health and safety standards. It was just three weeks ago at Amcor's plant in Brooklyn, Victoria, when, as a result of an accident, a worker lost his leg below the knee. Amcor workers nation-wide, walked off the job. The Brooklyn workers stayed out for two weeks which forced the company to bow to their demand and remove the manager of the plant. In the case of entitlements, the company refuses to sign up to the union's entitlements initiative, Manusafe. "We believe that in the current climate where [collapsed] companies like OneTel and HIH and workers are losing all their entitlements — whether it be redundancy packages, annual leave or long service leave — this money should be put into a separate, external fund." A board of trustees made up of employers and unions would manage the fund. The log of claims also includes measures to protect the rights of casual workers — that any labour hire casuals brought onto a site should be made respondents to that site's relevant award and enterprise agreement, and that if casuals are employed at a company for a specified period of time, they must be given permanency. These measures would also prevent management trying to use casuals to undermine the wages, conditions and jobs of the permanent workers. The need for recognition of the union and its delegates arises out of Amcor's attempt to restrict delegates on the job having access to other workers in their workplace. "The company is trying to put a leash on all of our delegates and restrict all movements and actions around any of their plants", said Mr Larner. "Now here we are again [on strike] because of this company's continuing attitude in blocking workers achieving fair outcomes, whether it be health and safety or their wages and entitlements."