Contributed from New South Wales
The Newcastle light rail construction at the Downer at the Newcastle light rail project have decided to walk off the job for three days at Hunter and Illawarra sites.
Workers are resisting efforts to maintain cuts that have already been cmade to workplace conditions, in exchange for a minimal pay rise and a minimal pay rise, after a two-year wage freeze.
This is a $7-billion company expected to make $195 million in after-tax profit this financial year, after $78 million in the first half of the year.
They have countered this with a demand for a 3 percent pay rise and say this company is extremely profitable, can afford a pay rise and has no justifiable reason to cut conditions. They want parity with those working for the same company in Queensland and Victoria.
The workers marched to the rail site in Hunter Street.
Hunter union organisers Justin Page from the Electrical Trades Union and Cory Wright from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said Downer had refused to budge on negotiations that began in January, to replace an enterprise agreement that expired at the end of March.
Downer is involved in engineering, construction and maintenance and had workers in power stations, coal mines and other industrial sites in both affected regions. Metal and electrical workers have agreed to augment the three-day strike with a range of other industrial action. It includes an indefinite overtime ban. This was decided at a mass meeting yesterday.
Downer Group’s engineering, construction and maintenance division has workers in power stations, coalmines and other industrial sites in both regions and the metalworkers and electrical workers unions, have voted for a range of industrial action including the three-day stoppage and an indefinite ban on overtime.
A mass meeting will be held at Hexham on Wednesday morning with striking workers expected to reassemble in Newcastle and march to the light rail site in Hunter Street.
Striking workers also gathered outside Bluescope Steel’s Port Kembla steelworks and further rallies are planned for Thursday and Friday.
Cory Wright said hampering the light rail work was “not ideal’ but “ultimately workers have to do what they can to try to get a better wages outcome.
“Everything’s going up around them and managers are getting million-dollar bonuses on top of already big salaries,” he said.
“You have to remember that back in 2015, last time around, workers took half the 4.5 per cent rise they were after, or 2.25 per cent, and took an actual cut in some allowances and benefits.
“Now the company is doing extremely well, management is being rewarded, but the best they can come up with is the same 2.25 per cent with no return of the previous conditions.
“Downer benefits from an infrastructure spending boom delivering a huge financial windfall, yet management refuse to share that with the employees whose hard work earns that money,”
Industrial action at Downer is also affecting other sites, including the Eraring and Bayswater power stations, Mount Thorley and Mount Arthur coal mines, the Williamtown RAAF base, the Orica ammonium nitrate plant on Kooragang Island and a new correctional centre being built at Nowra.