AMWU organisers headed to Albury-Wodonga this week to talk to manufacturing workers at many newer businesses about securing their workplace rights.
A group of six organisers from our growth team visited over a dozen workplaces in the NSW-Victorian region’s industrial sector including engineers, air-con production workers and defence contractors.
At one site some casuals were illegally being paid just $15 an hour, while at another site workers were concerned at dangerous loads being manually lifted in contravention of OH&S best practice.
The AMWU held lunchtime and teabreak meetings at many of the workplaces and we also hosted a barbecue on Thursday evening at our Wodonga office, which was well attended.
Growth Unit leader Paul Chirgwin said there was keen interest among the employees wanting to know what the AMWU can do for them.
“We’ve had an encouraging response, including from lots of people who didn’t have time to talk to us at work,” he said.
The wider border region has about 2000 manufacturing jobs, with the sector’s output in Albury being $1.5 billion every year – more than any other local industry.
Our organisers were able to point out how the AMWU’s campaigning had been effective in convincing the Victorian Government to make local procurement a top priority for its $3.1 billion investment in train manufacturing – much of that in regional areas.
“Albury in particular does have a mix of traditional manufacturers and number of businesses which have evolved in the past decade, offering jobs opportunities and growth in the area,” Mr Chirgwin said.
“There has been a high level of casuals and also use of labour-hire associated with many of these businesses, so those workers really were keen to know their award rights, the correct payrates and penalties they are entitled to and their right to conversion to permanent.”
Mr Corben said there had been strong employer opposition to unions at some sites.
But those workers also knew that the highest-paying manufacturing workplaces across Albury-Wodonga were unionised shops like Norske-Skog paper mill, Wilson’s Transformers and Mars Petfood.
“We were pleased to be able to assist and explain how unionised workplaces have less casuals, higher wage outcomes and improved safety records – a lot of those workers have mortgages and young families so that has to be foremost in their minds,” he said.
Finding answers: AMWU officials talk with members and prospective members about their issues at Albury workplaces.