Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1589      April 17, 2013

Volgren victory travelling north

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) members at coach maker Volgren have secured a solid enterprise agreement result with an 11 percent pay rise and conditions superior to the non-union changes the company had wanted to impose nationally.

The AMWU agreement outcome at Dandenong near Melbourne saw bus production workers win a boosted tool allowance and far easier union access to their site, in a deal which delegates believe should be a template for upcoming talks at Volgren’s Brisbane factory.

About 115 members voted to endorse the agreement after a campaign lasting nine months, which included strike action that disrupted Volgren’s production timeline on nine days this year.

That forced the company to abandon its goal of having employees fund increases to employer superannuation contributions from their pay rise and dropping an attempt to get AMWU members to pay for their own tools – worth about $2,500 over the life of the agreement.

Instead, the tool allowance will increase at the same rate as wages.

An earlier workplace vote which Volgren organised to try to implement a copy of the non-union agreement it has at its Perth factory resulted in a humiliating rejection, with the national CEO Peter Dale then taking over negotiations from the Victorian production manager, who left the company.

“It became far easier to deal with the company following that development and negotiations began to move quickly,” said AMWU Vehicle Division national assistant secretary Warren Butler.

“This agreement is a tribute to the solidarity and determination of our members, who’ll now have backpay going back to July 2012.”

Mr Dale agreed that another fundamental change opposed by the AMWU, a classification structure which would have allowed non-trade certified workers on downgraded wages to take over the tasks of tradesmen, would be set aside pending any agreement with an elected shopfloor committee.

Union delegate Mark Fidanza said Volgren had admitted it wanted to impose tough key performance indicators (KPI) but these were now realistic and the existing roles of skilled trades workers – 80 percent of the workforce – had been secured.

“A key problem with the KPIs and so many other areas is that management had the wording ‘you will’ in their version, which we do not accept,” he said.

The wage rises of 4 percent in the first year then 3.5 percent per year for the next two years leaves members 1.5 percent better off than the non-union deal.

The agreement also provides more time for AMWU delegates to deal with union matters and removes the 24-hour notification the AMWU had to previously give for an organiser’s visit.

It permits meetings to take place in the lunch room – bringing forward the implementation of the new right announced under federal government reforms by six months.

“This opens the door for the next site negotiations in Brisbane and the company has indicated this time they will not involve the Australian Industry Group, which just got in the way,” Mr Fidanza said.   

Next article – MUA calls on Woodside to reject “dud” offshore processing option

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