Unionised NT apprentices organise first collective agreement

Organised and united; AMWU apprentices have secured their first agreement.

Apprentices working at Rio Tinto’s remote Alcan refinery in Gove, Northern Territory have won their first union collective agreement after nearly two years of negotiations. 

AMWU NT Organiser Bryan Wilkins said the campaign to organise and lift the wages and conditions of apprentices started in December 2009 following a visit from the union’s National Education Unit.

“Shortly after the training, the apprentices at Gove decided they wanted to exercise their rights under the act to enter into a collective agreement.
“They (apprentices) then got the ball rolling on a new agreement for their site. Their employer and host employer, Rio Tinto, kept delaying the process, so the AMWU filed for a Majority Support Determination in Fair Work Australia (FWA).”

AMWU apprentice delegates Keane Broadbent and Rohan Neil, together with Mr Wilkins and representatives from the ETU, argued on behalf of the maintenance apprentices and eventually received overwhelming support for a proposed union collective agreement.

Mr Broadbent said the final outcome of a 15% pay rise over 3 years (back-dated 6 months) and securing delegate rights and consultation provisions was a major win.

“It’s the beginning, it’s a great start. Working for a profitable mining company I think we could still have fought for a bigger pay rise but 15% is still pretty good. 

“We’ve also clarified and cleared up a lot of things that were in our previous contract. There were a lot of shady areas but now there is reference to Australian standards for apprentices in the aluminum industry.

“We also had a few issues with the employers trying to make it a time based apprenticeship rather than competency based one. We now have a competency based apprenticeship in writing.”

He praised fellow apprentice AMWU members who maintained an interest in the agreement throughout the long negotiations.

“It was great to see so many apprentices supporting us. There was a lot of interest.”

Mr Broadbent, a fourth year apprentice boilermaker was pleased to have secured the agreement before the end of his training this year.

“We’ve laid down the foundations now. It can only get better from here.”

Contact Person: Dash Lawrence
Contact Email: news(at)amwu.asn.au

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