Workers at Sigma’s Herron pharmaceutical plant in Tennyson, Brisbane walked out on a week-long strike in February over their employer’s unfair redundancy offer.
The plant is earmarked for closure. Herron’s redundancy offer, of as little as two weeks pay per year of service, is less than what the company’s other workers at Mansfield are entitled to. “They get four weeks pay per year of service at Mansfield. All we want is the same,” one lab technician told Solidarity.
Herron bosses responded with hostility to the industrial action and locked out the striking NUW members for a further two days without pay.
One striker described the company’s other heavy-handed attempts to break the strike: “The cops were called in by the company on a number of occasions. But [the police] just said they couldn’t do anything. It’s our legal right to do this.”
Herron is feeling the heat after one striker was taken to hospital after being hit by a manager’s car. Police again visited the site, this time to speak with management over the incident.
The company refuses to improve their offer or say when the redundancies will happen. The workers won’t shift on their demand for fair redundancy pay.
The site’s union delegate, described the resilience among the strikers: “We’re staying strong. [The company] can do what they want… we all know what we are trying to achieve.”
The Tennyson strikers have recognised the wider significance of their struggle. “This is a platform for other [Sigma/Herron] workers around Australia. They’ll be having EBA talks this year and the company will try to railroad them too,” a picketing lab analyst explained.
“We’ve received messages of support from workers at the other sites, saying they are behind us,” added another.
Other unionists have shown solidarity with the Herron strikers. Delivery drivers covered by the TWU have refused to cross the picket line.
Herron has shut down its nightshift operation due to the industrial action. Much of the factory’s produce remains stuck in the warehouse. “The guys at the back gate are doing a great job stopping the trucks getting out,” one worker explained.
The strikers called on their co-workers inside to join them on the picket line. “What those guys inside need to remember is that if we win a pay rise or better redundancy, they get it too. We’re fighting for them,” said one striker.
Negotiation continues but Herron has not improved its offer. More industrial action looks likely.
A unified show of strength from all the workers at the Tennyson plant is needed to increase the pressure on the company to deliver the improved redundancy packages.
By Carl Taylor