Wednesday, May 15, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

More Strikes Planned As Wilmar Wage Dispute Continues

More strike action is planned in the Burdekin and across north Queensland as pay negotiations continue between Wilmar Sugar and Renewables and its employees.
Workers represented by the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) held strikes near Wilmar’s Inkerman Mill in Home Hill on Thursday, May 9 and Monday, May 13, with the three unions giving notice of intention to engage in another 24-hour strike next Tuesday, May 21.
The sugar giant, which is a subsidiary of the Singapore-based company Wilmar International and operates four sugar mills in the Burdekin, has been in salary negotiations with the unions and their members for over 12 months.

Wilmar workers and unions recently held two strikes in Home Hill, attracting honking horns and waves of support from passersby, with a third planned for next week. Photo credit: Sam Gillespie

“We Are Not Slowing Down”
Wilmar Workers And Unions Rally Against “Bad Deal”

The start of the annual raw sugar production season is at risk of delay as Wilmar and its workers continue to clash in an ongoing pay dispute.
Despite what has been called a “productive” negotiation meeting on Monday, May 13, Wilmar employees will go on strike for the third time in two weeks next Tuesday, May 21.
The strike action comes after over 12 months of negotiations which, at Monday’s meeting, saw Wilmar table a revised offer of 14.25% in wage increases over 42 months, with the first-year increase of 5% paid from June 2024 and the next increase paid from December 2024.
The three unions then tabled a counter proposal of a 22% pay increase over three years, plus log items equivalent to an aggregate claim of 25%.
ETU State Organiser Liam Sharkey said the unions agreed to reduce the wage increase in the interest of “fair and good faith bargaining” but he “can’t say the same” for Wilmar.
“Predictably, they have asked that workers cease industrial action, which won’t be happening,” Mr Sharkey said.
He said workers voted overwhelmingly to take more strike action before the busy crush season began.
“By taking action before the crush, union members wanted to cause the least interruption to the sugar community and to the farmers as possible,” Mr Sharkey said.
“These workers care about their communities, but they’re sick of being underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked.”
A Wilmar spokesperson said strike action will not only mean striking workers lose another day’s pay, but that third parties may now be affected, including cane growers, harvesting contractors, works contractors, suppliers, employees not involved in the dispute and communities.
“It is disappointing the unions are planning more strike action, despite a productive negotiation meeting yesterday (Monday, May 13) and a commitment to continue talks next week,” the spokesperson said.
“Every stoppage or disruption from now on will further delay completion of the multi-million dollar works program under way to prepare Wilmar’s factories, plant and equipment ahead of the season start, scheduled for June.
“While we continue to be hopeful of a mutually acceptable outcome, we recognise that progress could be slow.”
AWU Northern District Secretary Jim Wilson said hundreds of workers have participated in strike action across multiple sites and “we are not slowing down”.
“Wilmar executives and their shareholders need to reflect on whether our members will settle for their next offer if they want these mills to keep operating,” Mr Wilson said.
“Wilmar can end this dispute whenever they want.
"Simply come to the bargaining table with a fair offer that reflects the worth of our workers and we’ll get back to work.
“We are hitting Wilmar where it hurts, we are not backing down – and the whole community is standing with us.”
Wilmar and the unions were required to report back to the Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission on Wednesday, May 15.
The three unions have given notice of intention to engage in another 24-hour strike next Tuesday, May 21, with a face-to-face meeting scheduled for next Wednesday, May 22 to progress enterprise agreement negotiations.

AWU Northern District Secretary Jim Wilson and ETU State Organiser Liam Sharkey. Photo credit: Sam Gillespie

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