Alcoa Portland workers wage freeze
Australian Workers’ Union members at Alcoa Portland have taken the extraordinary step of volunteering for a one-year pay freeze as the company battles uncertainty over its future power contract and difficult market forces.
AWU Victorian Secretary Ben Davis said the offer to forego a pay rise in upcoming Enterprise Agreement negotiations would save the company conservatively $1.5 million over 12 months.
“Our workers recognise the importance of Alcoa to Portland as a community, and to their individual families,” Mr Davis said.
“EA negotiations are due to start and it was decided overwhelmingly to give Alcoa the benefit of a wage freeze in the light of low world prices, an oversupply of product and the fact that state-sponsored energy subsidies for Portland are still under negotiation with the outcome remaining uncertain.”
Mr Davis said a mass meeting of members on Monday this week voted overwhelmingly to restrict the new agreement to one year, rather than the traditional three years, to allow time for conditions to stabilise.
“There are 607 direct jobs at Alcoa and 2000 jobs in and around the town that are directly dependent on the smelter,” he said.
“In a town the size of Portland which has a population of less than 10,000, this is an employer that cannot be lost without extreme hardship for the community.”
Under normal circumstances EA negotiations would include a claim for 3% per annum increase along with potential adjustments to benefits and conditions. The offer to Alcoa did not include any loss of benefits other than a potential pay rise over the next 12 months.
“Our members have seen the selling-off of the Alcoa ship MV Portland and work given to foreign seafarers,” Mr Davis said.
“This was a significant blow to Portland, but we cannot allow it to be the beginning of the end.”
The AWU has written to Alcoa outlining the result of the mass meeting and the offer from members. There had been no response at the time of writing.