AMWU packaging industry members have signalled they’re ready for the challenge to take an industry approach to campaigning in their sector.
The “Packaging Matters” plan launched at a special meeting in Sydney recently aims to take wages and conditions out of competition across the industry and to prevent a “race to the bottom”.
“This campaign is about Australian packaging jobs and building better communication between employees and employers to keep jobs here,” said Doug Christie, an AMWU delegate at Hannapak.
“We’re trying to make sure that Australian packaging is profitable and isn’t priced out by cheap labour.”
Packaging industry organiser Hannah Smith said this is a sector which is experiencing strong growth as Australia’s population and consumer demand grow.
“Recognising that the industry is growing, we are attempting to build strength in these workplaces,” Ms Smith said.
The Packaging Matters forum was attended by 40 NSW delegates from an array of employers covering paper, plastics and metal packaging.
They were comprehensively briefed on the existing state of the industry and its growth prospects.
The delegates got across a six-month plan to drive union representation in the industry, by both increasing membership density in presently represented sites and recruiting members at targeted, non-union sites.
The ‘Packaging Matters’ campaign aims to mobilise members across the industry to hold conversations with non-members about the value of union membership.
By appealing to the strong sense of industry identity felt by packaging workers, organisers hope that they can drive real change in the industry.
So far, the campaign has been received well at the factory floor.
“People are happy about it. They’re happy that the AMWU and other unions are taking the initiative to strengthen the Australian workforce,” said Doug Christie.
The conference’s final resolution endorsed the campaign and created a rank-and-file Packaging Industry Committee to oversee and guide it.
“The fact that I was able to talk to workers from other companies that we compete with for customers, worker to worker was helpful - not to try and take each others customers but to understand the industry much more clearly.” said Doug Christie.
Ms Smith said: “The real success of the meeting was that delegates and workplace leaders have taken up this idea and they are really leading this campaign.”