Industrial action prohibiting productivity: retail boss

The director of retail giant Woolworths has accused Australian workers unions of getting in the way of productivity, by lobbying for wage rises.

Ralph Waters, Woolworths director and Fletcher Building chairman, told The Australian newspaper that employers and unions are getting lazy in their wage negotiations, putting individual worker wages before greater productivity.

"Employers or alternative providers have found ways to export Australian jobs that people just didn’t think could be exported. When you put that with the woeful productivity of recent years, if employers and unions can’t see that we are again at a time like the 1980s, where we must start digging for serious productivity gains again or we live with the consequences, then they are blind," Waters told The Australian.

Manufacturers Monthly has reported on numerous wage disputes over the past few months alone, many of which have resulted in productivity loss for the employer.

Toyota Australia

Toyota Australia finally came to an agreement with its workers on pay rises last week, after months of planned strikes.

Toyota Australia confirmed that it has reached an in principle agreement with the unions which will see its factory workers receive a 13% pay rise over 42 months.

The consensus is expected to see the long-running pay dispute between the car manufacturer and its workers cease following weeks of disrupted production that has significantly affected Toyota Australia’s factory operation and output.

Toyota Australia confirmed with Manufacturers’ Monthly that it loses $10 million in sales alone every day its workers are on strike. Last month Toyota workers went on strike for five days reportedly costing the car makers at least $50 million in sales.

Department of Defence

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) members in the DOD staged a four-hour stoppage earlier month, calling for heads of the DOD to return to negotiations on a new workplace agreement after refusing to grant pay rises above inflation.

AMWU TSA national secretary, Mike Nicolaides, said the government has been ‘stonewalling’ negotiations; workers and the AMWU warned there would be further strikes if the DOD did not agree to address the issue. 

“Nothing has changed from our position. Our members still see the offer of a real wage cut as unacceptable,” said Nicolaides.

“The Department has not moved from their position of 9% over three years. If anything, they seem determined to continue down that path (offering wages that fail to meet predicted CPI increases). Well… it won’t fly with our members.”

The DOD reportedly made an offer in June to cover 22,000 civilian positions within the Department, however this was rejected by 72.5% of voters.

Caterpillar workers at Hastings Deering

Workers at Hastings Deering manufacturing facilities in Queensland and the Northern Territory staged a strike for 48 hours over a pay dispute.

Hastings Deering sells and services Caterpillars and other mine haulage vehicles.

The workers had previously accepted reduced pay increases during the GFC, however they were demanding higher increases now because the mining industry is performing so well.

"These workers are now simply standing up for a share of the booming services sector working with the resources industry," said AMWU assistant state secretary, Rohan Webb (quoted by The Chronicle).

"These tradespeople have the skills to go and work directly in the mining industry, but they are choosing to work in and support their local communities."

This strike is the latest in a stream of pay disputes gaining union support in industries that are performing far better in 2011 than during the GFC.

The AMWU has supported workers demanding a slice of the benefits.

Corinthian Doors

Corinthian Doors’ employees have unions have been battling it out with Corinthian Doors bosses since June over a new pay agreement.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) staged a 48-hour strike at the manufacturing facility at beginning of the month, in response to an offer from Corinthian Doors managers stipulating a 2.5% pay rise, each year, for three years.

The CFMEU demanded a 3.5% pay rise each year for three years.

All up, pver 200 workers staged strikes at Corinthian Doors facilities around Australia, and the company announced it would lock all striking employees out of the manufacturing plant for five days if they didn’t stop. 

Both sides have been unable reach a new workplace agreement despite more than three months of negotiations. The workers are claiming that the lockout is financial starving them and their families.

There have also been reports that Corinthian Doors holding company, JELD-WEN, is close to bankrputcy.

Image: Corinthian Doors employees strike (courtesy of