Resolution to Alcoa strike not in sight as employees vote for ‘indefinite industrial action’

Stuart HortonSound Telegraph
Striking Kwinana Alcoa Refinery workers.
Camera IconStriking Kwinana Alcoa Refinery workers. Credit: Stuart Horton

About 1400 Alcoa workers have voted almost unanimously in favour of an indefinite strike after failing to come to an agreement with their employer over an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

Workers from the Kwinana, Pinjarra and Wagerup refineries, the Huntley and Willowdale bauxite mines, and Bunbury Port went on strike last week after 20 months of negotiations between Alcoa and the Australian Workers Union failed to deliver a new EBA.

Previous story: Kwinana Alcoa Refinery workers strike in battle for ‘job security’

AWU West Australian Branch president Andy Hacking told the Sound Telegraph the situation was “escalating” after all bar four of the striking employees voted at a meeting in Pinjarra this morning for an indefinite strike with many feeling they had “come too far” to back down now.

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“All but four out of 1400 voted for indefinite industrial action and the feeling among most of the guys is we’ve come too far to go back,” he said.

“This will come down to whoever is prepared to hold out for one day further than the other, but we’re in it for the long haul.”

An Alcoa spokesperson said the company had invited employees to vote on a new EBA later this month, and was “disappointed” with the decision. They also called the industrial action “unnecessary” and said it only served to impact employees through lost earnings.

“Alcoa wants to continue to attract and retain the best people to run our operations, so we have offered employees a generous EBA that provides income growth on top of their already very competitive pay and conditions,” they said.

“It includes provisions that are better than the market including a 14 per cent superannuation contribution and an extended sick leave program with two years’ income support. The EBA also maintains many of the provisions we know our employees value including a 36-hour work week and the opportunity to earn extra income through supplementary shifts.”

Mr Hacking, who is also an Kwinana refinery employee, said those on strike were not concerned with increasing salaries and maintained job security was top of employees’ concerns.

“Alcoa says in its values that it’s most invaluable asset is its employees but this refusal to negotiate doesn’t sound like the actions of a company that values its workers at all,” he said.

“We aren’t (striking) over an extra $2000 to our salaries because many of us are losing $4000-$6000 by being on strike. Who would throw away that much money for an extra $2000?

“This (industrial action) is all about Alcoa being prepared to talk. Many of us are long-term employees who have never caused them any grief but they won’t provide assurances about not casualising employment, outsourcing contractors or agreements on manning hours.

“We’re prepared to (strike) for a long time. Someone dropped some more lumber off today and people keep bringing us more and more supplies. We’ve got more signs going up... we’re in it for the long haul.”

The Alcoa spokesperson said the EBA addressed employee concerns about job security and included a commitment to call for voluntary redundancies in the event changes to the workforce were required, with a generous redundancy package well above National Employment Standards.

“We encourage our employees to carefully consider the generous offer we have put to them, and to take the opportunity to have their say on their EBA,” they said.

Alcoa said it had not experienced any production impacts to date from the industrial action, and was “grateful to employees working to maintain safe operations”.

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