A group of determined workers are getting strong union support as they enter the sixth day of a strike at Melbourne firm Bitzer, which specializes in cooling systems for retail customers.
The 54 AMWU members stopped all production of the industrial-sized cooling evaporators last week as they refused to bow to a management plan to evaporate their RDOs and award standards for casuals.
Their vigil outside the Sunshine factory in Strezlecki Avenue, which is going on 24-hours a day, has drawn wide support and visits from fellow unionists after the AMWU put out an alert last week notifying the union community about the dispute.
Staying strong: AMWU our members who are calling on Bitzer to be realistic on wages and conditions.
AMWU Assistant State Secretary Craig Kelly said the members had voted to take authorized industrial action and stop work indefinitely after management refused to back down on its plans to slash real wages and conditions in a new enterprise bargaining agreement.
The skilled workforce make and assemble refrigeration parts and large evaporators, the only company in Australia which manufactures the industrial-size equipment and is able to customize it for specific customers including supermarkets.
Management have made no pay offer beyond the cost-of-living index, want to remove RDOs, stop contributing to income protection and pay any new workers the base award rate only rather than EBA rates.
As part of a strategy to cut full-time wages and conditions, Bitzer management also want to reduce the wages of about eight casual workers by nearly a third. It offers them no prospect of permanency, even though some have worked there for the past few years.
The workforce are determined to win a real wage increase, protect all their conditions and return to the same shift for everyone after bosses introduced two separate shifts without proper consultation.
“This is clearly an attempt by Bitzer to undermine the wages of its full-time workforce, partly by exploiting their fellow workers who have been put on as casuals with no prospect of permanency,” Mr Kelly said.
“Our members want a fair go for everyone, most have worked at Bitzer for well over a decade and won’t settle for anything which would see them gradually paid less then forced out. We won’t tolerate a two-tier wage structure.
“The decision by the workforce to strike was unanimous and the AMWU is fully supporting them.”