Thirty-three quarry operators last week returned to work at Hanson?s Bass Point quarry in New South Wales after walking off the job for 24 hours.
Australian Workers Union official Branko Gorgievski said a breakdown in negotiations over the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) had led to protected industrial action, which followed a four-hour stoppage the previous week. The strike action was approved by Fair Work Australia.
Gorgievski would not rule out further industrial action if Hanson management would not sit back down for “more constructive negotiations”.
“We have been in talks since late last year for the new EBA, which should have come into effect on 1 January this year, with the last one expiring on 31 December,” he said. “Employees just want the same conditions as the last EBA, which gave them a four per cent increase in salary per year over the three years of the agreement.
“They know the economic climate is tough so all they’re asking for is what they already have. However, the company will not go above 3.5 per cent [a year over three years]. The workers have worked hard for their current conditions and they don’t want to give them away,” Gorgievski said.
While Hanson has told employees the company is “doing it tough”, Gorgievski said the workers had been doing their bit to ensure the quarry remained viable.
“These workers have been flexible and have even broken records in terms of output, so they believe they’ve done everything in their power to help out,” he said. “It is a very viable quarry.”
A spokesman for Hanson said the company was still open to negotiations, although it believed the new agreement it had outlined was “fair and reasonable”.
“Hanson pays well above the award rate and is one of the leaders in pay rates for quarrying,” the spokesman said. “Given the current economic climate, it believes an increase of 3.5 per cent is reflective of market conditions.”
The spokesman said that during the industrial action, Hanson employees not covered by the enterprise agreement were on site “to ensure that the impact to the supply of materials to customers is minimal”.
Quarry sought further comment from Hanson but calls were not returned before deadline.
Source: Illawarra Mercury