Angry maintenance workers fight Kimberly Clark for unfair handling of redundancies

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) is fighting for a group of disillusioned maintenance workers made redundant from Kimberly Clark Australia (KCA), in a bid to convince the company to maintain their employment, after it announced it would downsize its tissue manufacturing in South Australia and cut 170 jobs.

KCA announced the redundancies in January this year after it decided to cut production levels at the regional plant.

Workers are reportedly ‘disillusioned’ with KCA about the way they handled the redundancies.

“The members understand jobs will be lost. But the manner in which our concerns have been dismissed has left us feeling really angry and frustrated. The company has bluntly said no to all our proposals,” said Senior delegate Mark Plunkett.

“Their restructure will decimate the community of Millicent. The majority of our tradespeople will be left without jobs in a region with very limited opportunities for employment.”

AMWU regional secretary, Peter Bauer, said the union members were now negotiating “more secure future under a restructured workforce.”

According to Bauer, the union needs to get involved to ensure workers are not denied the opportunity to bid for long-term or permanent jobs in other alternative areas of the business. 

Bauer suspects the manufacturer plans to lower wages and conditions for maintenance staff by using contractors.

"Kimberly Clark is proposing to introduce measures that will take away security of employment by using contract maintenance. We believe they intend to use competing contract firms on a race to the bottom in driving down wages and conditions. We would like to see 17 fitters permanently kept on, but they’ve proposed only 7," he said.

The AMWU has reportedly sought action in FairWork Australia, claiming KCA has failed to properly consult over the redundancies – which is against their agreement with the industry groups.

“The agreement says they need to consult and reach agreement during times of redundancy. If there has been any consultation it’s only because we’ve pressed for it. There has been very little dialogue,” said Bauer.

“It’s not a region where there are lots of jobs. People are now left to look for work and facing the possibility of moving away.”

“Job security isn’t just important to the workers but to the region as a whole. If we can keep workers settled here it’s to everyone’s benefit. Our focus now is on achieving that.”

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