Thursday, July 11, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Fair Work Commission Orders Suspension Of Industrial Action

The Fair Work Commission has ordered three unions to suspend industrial action at the Queensland factories of Wilmar Sugar and Renewables for six weeks after hearing submissions from unions and the company.

In light of the Commission’s decision, Sugar and Renewables is planning to have all of its eight factories crushing cane again this week, as soon as harvesting resumes in the wake of rain that drenched all its districts from Sarina in the south to Ingham in the north during the past week.

A spokesman for the company said that, assuming no more rain fell in the regions, it expected to have cane supply enabling production at all Burdekin mills this week, starting with Kalamia and Inkerman mills tomorrow (Monday) followed by Invicta and Pioneer mills by Thursday.

“Further south, Proserpine Mill is also expected to commence crushing Tuesday and Plane Creek Mill at Sarina is looking promising for Tuesday or Wednesday,” the spokesman said.

The Macknade Mill in the Herbert region to the north was expected to be in production early this week with Victoria Mill following mid-week. Fair Work Commission Deputy President Dobson had been asked by Sugar and Renewables to issue suspension orders after unions notified intention to mount a series of stoppages over coming weeks, further threatening company attempts to continue with the annual sugar season.

The company gave extensive evidence to the Commission on the impact of bans and stoppages, including the effect on regional economies and third parties in the sugar supply chain, particularly cane growers. The Sugar and Renewables spokesman said the suspension of industrial action relieves the immediate risk to the annual crushing season, and provides clear air for negotiations with unions on the enterprise agreement.

“Everyone in the supply chain can now make the necessary preparations to get underway and begin making up for lost time,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Wilmar received another blow last week, with two staff with more than 14 years of experience handing in their notice of resignation at Invicta Mill.

The AWU (Australian Workers’ Union) claims that these latest departures come as a direct result of Wilmar’s low wages and will leave Wilmar’s largest mill critically short-staffed.

The AWU reported that one Wilmar worker at Invicta, who asked not to be named for fear of repercussions, said the departing workers will lead to the mill struggling to maintain quality and reliability throughout the crush.

“I fear the process side at Invicta will suffer this year as managers are pushing new starters to get signed off with only 3-4 weeks training,” they said.

“They still haven’t filled all positions in the fugals, mills or lab, it is a sh*t show for coverage - people are burned out already.”

AWU Northern District Secretary Jim Wilson said these reports confirmed what workers, cane growers and the local community had been saying for some time.

“Wilmar’s greed is slowly strangling the sugar communities of our region,” said Mr Wilson.

“We have also heard that Wilmar has had to send a boiler operator and a boiler assistant from the Inkerman mill to Proserpine because they don’t have anyone trained to do the job down there.

“It’s time for Wilmar to send an adult into negotiations to get this resolved.”

Invicta Mill’s startup commenced last month but production has been interrupted by industrial action and weather. Photo credit: Wilmar Sugar and Renewables

In other news