Steel industry set for a mass strike

BlueScope Steel is likely to witness a mass strike action as Port Kembla steelworkers in NSW fight against another 100 job losses.

The steelworkers will not settle unless there is a breakthrough over a new enterprise agreement in the next few days, after the company axed 1000 jobs in less than a year reports the AFR.

Australian Workers Union (AWU) Port Kembla branch secretary Wayne Phillips said ‘‘a line’s been drawn in the sand and we will now take this on, head on with the company, and do whatever we have to do to protect our numbers”.

Steel unions were prepared to accept revised pay offers from the company for annual rises of 3 per cent, 2.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent. But the company’s plan to move entirely to a national workplace system would erode job security for workers at the plant explained Phillip.

He went on to say, “We know they [BlueScope] are doing it tough, that’s why we have agreed on the money. But there’s no reason to go raiding our conditions. We don’t want to damage the company but if we have to take protected action, then so be it.”

Talks over a new enterprise negotiating agreement next Monday would be the company’s last chance to change course reported Illawarra mercury.

‘‘Following our negotiations Monday, the combined unions will be lodging into Fair Work [Australia, an application] for protected industrial action where we will now take the company on legally.”

A two-hour stoppage meeting was held last week by about 120 maintenance workers and the AWU has promised a protected campaign of strikes if an agreement is not reached.

BlueScope Steel did not confirm any of the union’s claims yesterday. ‘

‘The company does not comment publicly on industrial relations matters,’’ a spokesman said.

Besides, BlueScope has a policy of not commenting on its workplace negotiations, but the threatened strikes come as it is under severe pressure from the high Australian dollar, high raw material costs, low domestic demand and low prices.

‘‘We are extremely top heavy in Port Kembla and if they’re serious about bloody saving money then they need to chop a swathe through the staff ranks, without extra workers, co-ordinated strike action could cripple steel production,” added Phillip

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