After a ten week lockout, striking workers at Ausreo’s Wetherill Park factory in western Sydney have won a victory against management. Ausreo supplies concrete reinforcement materials to the building and construction industry.
When the Ausreo workers’ enterprise agreement ran out in February, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union demanded management raise the wage from $25 to $28 an hour. This would mean paying machine operators in Sydney the same wage as Ausreo workers in other states doing the same job. Workers in Victoria have better pay, conditions and a better redundancy agreement.
But management claimed this was “not sustainable” for the Sydney factory, offering instead a 3 per cent pay rise over three years. This would not even account for inflation. They also offered a potential 3 per cent “Christmas bonus”, but it was to be paid at management discretion and without changing the current base rates.
In June management locked 30 striking workers out of the factory and refused to negotiate a new deal. The workers maintained a daily vigil outside the site.
AMWU delegate Dennis Ngo said workers were able to maintain their presence because they had support from union members on other sites and from the local community. Thousands of unionists lent moral and financial support to the locked out workers.
The ACTU’s Ged Kearney joined them on the picketline in July. In August Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon and NSW Labor Senator Doug Cameron addressed a 200 strong solidarity rally. Around 50 United Voice members also joined the rally.
AMWU organiser Ghazi Noshie said: “There’s a lack of respect from management for the workforce and I sense this company had always wanted to lock them out and try to destroy the union on site.”
But in September the Ausreo workers went back to their jobs with a new agreement and an above inflation pay rise.
The Ausreo workers showed that by sticking together they could beat management’s bullying. We will need an industrial campaign like this on a much wider scale against Abbott’s budget and incoming job cuts, where unions are prepared to stop work and extend solidarity across different sectors.