Pay battle heats up at spud plant

WORKERS at the McCain factory at Smithton keep up their fight for a pay rise as negotiations between the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and McCain continue.

About 90 workers at the factory are involved in the industrial dispute, which started last month.

Workers are pushing for their pay rates to be increased to match those of employees in McCain’s interstate processing facilities.

At present the AMWU says the pay rates of Tasmanian workers lag behind their mainland counterparts by between 15 per cent to 20 per cent.

Over the past couple of weeks employees have twice been locked out of the plant due to the industrial action.

They restarted their shifts after the latest lock-out on Tuesday.

The AMWU is challenging a Fair Work Commission ruling the union says sets a dangerous precedent.

Yesterday the union appealed a commission decision that backs McCain’s move to lock out workers before they had taken industrial action.

The AWMU says this position potentially erodes workers’ right to strike and contradicts advice on the commission’s website, which says employer response action must be in response to industrial action that is happening.

AMWU national secretary Steve Murphy said the current bargaining system already made it difficult for workers to take action.

“If the commission’s decision is allowed to stand and bosses will be able to pre-emptively lock workers out, we’d be setting industrial relations back more than a decade,” he said.

“The mere mention of the word industrial action will mean bosses will be given the power to carry out the most aggressive industrial act – starving workers out by locking them out of their workplaces.”

Mr Murphy said this would force workers to go through lengthy campaigns to try and get better wages and conditions.

He said the decision could allow more employers to lock workers out in order to keep pay and conditions stagnant.

In a letter to workers earlier this week, McCains said it was “continuing to negotiate in good faith with the union” and focused on “the welfare of people as our priority”.

The company said it did not “wish to engage in protracted negotiations”.

It said it had made an application to the FWC to provide assistance “in reaching a mutually

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