An alliance of unions representing transport, farm and retail workers will work with one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, Coles.

Unions, Coles unite to address exploitation in the industry

An alliance of unions representing transport, farm and retail workers will work with one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, Coles, to address worker exploitation and risks to safety in the Australian fresh food industry.
Coles has committed to work with the Transport Workers’ Union, the Australian Workers’ Union and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association to pursue safe and fair conditions for workers across its fresh produce and meat supply chains. The three unions will co-operate to organise transport, farm and retail workers to address worker exploitation and risks to health and safety. The move has been announced at TWU National Council in Cairns today.
It follows two agreements with the TWU last year that cover the Coles transport supply chain and delivery work in the on-demand economy. The agreement promotes transparency and end-to-end compliance with the Coles supply chains.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said: “Worker exploitation in any part of the Australian fresh food supply chain is not acceptable. Underpayment of wages and superannuation and unsafe working conditions must be addressed. Coles has been working with the TWU to ensure safety and fairness in road transport and it has shown its commitment to continue to work with its supply chains to ensure that all workers are treated in accordance with Australian workplace legislation.”
Coles head of quality and responsible sourcing James Whittaker said: “Coles is committed to the safety and fair treatment of all the workers in our supply chains, as per our Ethical Sourcing Policy and Supplier Requirements. Our local Australian suppliers and workers are critical to the provision of fresh, quality produce and meat to our customers. We have made significant progress in the past 10 years on our Ethical Sourcing journey, and now look forward to working with these three unions.”
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said: “Workers in the fresh food industry can be vulnerable and we look forward to  working with Coles and the TWU and SDA to protect the rights of these workers.”
SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer said: “Workers in retail stores and retail warehouses currently enjoy protections under union-negotiated Enterprise Agreements. We want to ensure all workers in the fresh food industry are aware of their rights and have the power to exercise those rights. This alliance will mean more workers can be reached in the supply chain to ensure their voices are heard and the exploitation stops.’
This work with Coles is part of an ongoing program of engagement with Australian retailers to pursue safe and fair conditions throughout the supply chain and the announcement last year by the TWU and SDA of an Online Retail and Delivery Alliance to organise workers in Amazon.
A Fair Work Ombudsman inquiry last November highlighted the need for compliance and accountability throughout the fresh produce and meat processing supply chains. Inspectors recovered more than $1 million in unpaid wages for over 2,500 workers.

Union demands govt keep train building jobs local

West Australian rail workers have demanded a State Government strategy to maximise job opportunities for local manufacturing workers and businesses, with the mining boom over and unemployment continuing to rise.
Workers, represented by the Australian Manufaucturing Workers’ Union (AMWU), signed a petition that will be presented to State Parliament calling for more public transport procurement to remain in WA rather than sent offshore with many major infrastructure projects now fabricated overseas and shipped to Australia for assembly.
As part of the Union’s Plan for WA Jobs campaign, the group has called for the $3.1 billion of new trains due be purchased for WA’s public transport network to be built in WA to stimulate local industry, encourage more apprenticeships and provide brighter job prospects as the mining boom comes to an end.
The Union’s WA State Secretary Steve McCartney said the local rail manufacturing industry was facing an uncertain future because of the State Government’s plans to purchase future rail cars from overseas manufacturers.
“The WA manufacturing sector and its highly skilled workforce has the capacity and capability to build the new rail assets needed for an expanding public rail network.
“Yet skilled railcar builders are losing their jobs because of the shortage of work at a time when the economy is already struggling due to the collapse of the mining boom,” McCartney said.
“WA has a good track record in railcar manufacturing. Thousands of WA-built rail cars are carting tonnes of iron-ore through the Pilbara every day, with the first fleet of electric Transperth trains in Perth, which were manufactured by UGL Rail in Bassendean, still ferrying commuters on millions of trips each year.
“Yet the Barnett Government has absolutely no intention of continuing to procure locally built railcars for future West Australian projects. We know this because as recently as September, the previous Transport Minister rejected outright a suggestion for more investment in the local train manufacturing sector when he spoke at a Chamber of Commerce and Industry event.
“This is cold comfort to the thousands of skilled workers in the rail manufacturing sector who have lost their jobs and many others who face uncertain futures at a time when the WA economy is already grappling with the end of the resources boom.”
The petition will be presented to State Parliament by Shadow Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.
 
 

Union talks with BHP over train driver pay to recommence

Pay deals between BHP and its rail drivers have recommenced after the miner failed to meet union demands of pay rises, cheap rent in the Pilbara and extra annual leave.

The CFMEU said BHP’s three-year pay offer was rejected by about 60 per cent of 350 rail drivers in April this year.

Pay negotiations with BHP Billiton started last year, representing the continuing strengthening of CFMEU presence in the Pilbara.

The union negotiations are the first major talks with BHP in the Pilbara for more than a decade.

Wood told Australian Mining negotiations were set to recommence in the coming weeks.

Wood said the offer was rejected because the company did not meet a key demand for guaranteed annual pay rises of “ideally between 4 or 5 per cent.”

Wood also said workers were distrustful of BHP Billiton's offer for performance-based annual increases, adding that the miner failed to meet other key demands including for FIFO workers to be awarded an extra four hours of annual leave per swing to compensate for travel time to and from site.

This has the potential of adding an extra week or two to annual leave per year, depending on each employee‘s roster, The West Australian reported.

Wood said that the drivers should be able recoup time when travelling to and from site during their R&R leave.

The third key demand was for 50 Port Hedland-based train drivers to gain access to BHP-owned housing.

In return, the staff would give up an existing $1800 weekly allowance for offsite accommodation.

Wood said rental homes cost more than $2000 a week in Port Hedland and with workers fearing rents could increase further.

In 2011 Rio Tinto lost a High Court battle over bypassing unions in negotiations with workers on its Pilbara iron ore operations with the decision sparking fear that the unions return would see outrageous demands fly.

However Woods said the union demands were proof it was being responsible.

He told ABC News the CFMEU entered the bargaining in good faith.

"We are not going into the discussions trying to turn the world upside down, what we are trying to do is hopefully get an agreement which accommodates both the employees and the employer," he said.

Image: abc.net

Coal terminal workers walk off the job

 

More than 200 workers at Port Waratah Coal Services walked off the job this morning as part of an eight hour strike as a long running dispute over new enterprise agreements continue.

The Maritime Union of Australia said the stop-work action would take place from 6:30am to 2:30pm.

Today’s action follows a four hour stoppage earlier this month.

The union has also announced plans to take part in 24-hour strikes on May 29 if an agreement cannot be reached.

Maritime Union of Australia branch secretary Mick Forbes said PWCS wants to change enterprise bargaining clauses related to dispute settlement and contracting

Forbes described the proposed changes as “union busting”.

The MUA claim anti-union proposals in the new agreements seek to undermine the safety and health of workers and tear up longstanding settlement procedures around contract issues.

“Unfortunately, despite our continued commitment to reach an agreement, we don’t think the company is getting the message,” MUA assistant national secretary Ian Bray said.

“So we are stepping up our campaign of legally protected action whilst continuing every effort to reach a deal.”

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union spokesman Daniel Wallace is hopeful meetings over the next week with management will resolve the dispute, ABC reported.

"We've been in negotiations for the past eight months," he said.

"We've had about 50 meetings with management .

"We managed to resolve some issues yesterday but the main sticking points are still there.

"Hopeful over the next week we may be able to resolve the dispute."

PWCS told LMH the company had been open in its negotiations.

“PWCS has been negotiating in good faith since July last year,” the spokesperson said.

“There is nothing that PWCS is proposing or seeking to negotiate in the new agreement that does not respect the rights of employees to belong to a union, or to be represented collectively.”

The spokesman said contingency plans are in place should the strikes go ahead to mitigate impacts to the local supply chain.

 

24-hour strikes for Newcastle coal terminal

ndustrial action is set to continue at Port Waratah Coal Services in Newcastle after workers voted for a two-week campaign which could include 24-hour work stoppages.

Two hundred workers at the coal terminal attended a four-hour stop work meeting yesterday and unanimously endorsed further action over the next two weeks.

The action will include future 12 and 24-hour strikes, bans on overtime and working outside of classifications.

Maritime Union of Australia branch secretary Mick Forbes said PWCS wants to change enterprise bargaining clauses related to dispute settlement and contracting

Forbes described the proposed changes as “union busting”.

The MUA claim anti-union proposals in the new agreements seek to undermine the safety and health of workers and tear up longstanding settlement procedures around contract issues.

“The message we received from the members is one of great disappointment about the company’s continued belligerence and attacks on their job security,” said Glen Williams, MUA’s Newcastle branch secretary.

Disputes over the new enterprise agreements have been ongoing for 10 months.

Last week a spokesman for PWCS told Australian Mining the company had been open in its negotiations.

“PWCS has been negotiating in good faith since July last year,” the spokesperson said.

“There is nothing that PWCS is proposing or seeking to negotiate in the new agreement that does not respect the rights of employees to belong to a union, or to be represented collectively.”

The spokesman said contingency plans are in place should the strikes go ahead to mitigate impacts to the local supply chain.

Conference sets port automation agenda

A conference being held in Sydney today will probe the future of port automation and examine how trade unions should be best involved in the practice.

160 representatives from 11 maritime unions on 10 countries will meet in Sydney today to discuss how set the union agenda on port automation.

The ITF say that dockers have long experiences in adapting to new technologies onsite and that their technological skills make them an essential part of the automation debate.

ITF president and dockers’ section chair Paddy Crumlin said workers’ interests were paramount in any automation discussions.

“We are united in the view that automation will not be imposed, it will come through negotiation,” he said.

“We are building the widest possible alliance to ensure workers’ interests are represented, and employers would be well advised to understand that a global network is solidifying and strengthening its resolve to respond decisively to unilaterally imposed automation.”

Crumlin said the unions would come down hard on companies trying to force automation on their workforce without proper process.

“Unions are committed to dialogue with employers which is open and fair. However, the others, the employers who try to use automation as a means to try and destroy unions, impose excessive job cuts and remove conditions of work should know that we will take action against them,” he said.

Ray Familathe, vice president mainland of the US International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and ITF dockers’ section second vice chair said workers played an important role in ports.

“Our goal is to protect permanent employment for all registered dockworkers throughout the world, whether it’s in traditional cargo-handling terminals or fully automated container terminals,” he stated.

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