Thursday 30 March 2017

Weekly Update No. 09/2017


From AWU Victorian Secretary Ben Davis


Dear Member

It is 42 days since our members at Fletcher Insulation started their indefinite stoppage. It is a long time to be on strike and demonstrates how deeply this group is committed to the cause. They want a fair go from the employer they have worked for so faithfully and efficiently, in many cases, for decades.

This week Fletcher made a new offer which did not address the issues and was unanimously rejected at a mass meeting. A counter offer was made, which the company rejected. Instead of putting energy into settling this matter, Fletcher then made application to terminate the existing Enterprise Agreement, a tactic increasingly favoured by multi-national employers. If successful, this would push workers onto the award.

It is time that we all got behind the crew out there at Fletcher. They have maintained a 24-hour a day vigil at the gates at 127 Frankston-Dandenong Rd, Dandenong from the very beginning, and they will be there for as long as it takes for good sense to prevail.

You can help

I know that some members from other sites have dropped in to offer their support, and it has been greatly appreciated.  The time has come for those who can, to dig deep and make a donation to help these workers through. They have gone a long time without a pay packet.

We have set up a GoFundMe account which will be used to help Fletcher workers. Anything left over at the end of the dispute will be preserved for use when other members are in a similar situation.

You can click here to make a donation.

Jobs mothballed

Our members at Iluka Resources at Hamilton got bad news this week with the shock announcement that the plant will suspend operations later this year.

The site has been processing the heavy metal concentrate from Iluka’s Murray Basin mining operation at Ouyen, the last of which will go through the Hamilton plant in October. After that, the gates will close, but we are told the intention is that work will start again when a new mining development is approved for Balranald, NSW. Unfortunately the new site is not expected to be working before 2019.

Losing a job at any time is a terrible thing for any worker. Losing a job in a regional area is that much tougher, particularly when there are 60 jobs going at the same time.

Redeployment promised

Iluka has said it will be looking for opportunities to redeploy workers and has promised individual attention to employees as they make tough decisions about the immediate future. The company is optimistic that the Balranald development will be approved and that Hamilton will get back to work in a couple of years or so.

However, market conditions might have a say in that, and nothing can be certain.

I was the AWU Organiser down there during the set-up period about 10 or 12 years ago. There was great optimism about the future of the Hamilton operation, which I can only hope will be resurrected in 2019.

We will be working with the company to see that our members do get the help they need and that plans are in place for that potential rehiring when the time comes.  

Victory for swim instructors

It’s only a matter of months since the Swim Instructors Association (SIA) was formed under the auspices of the AWU Victorian Branch. A lot has been achieved, with $1 million in backpay already distributed to about 650 instructors employed by Paul Sadler Swimland (PSS).

This week there was another major step forward for this group with an in-principle agreement on further backpay and on a future PSS Enterprise Agreement. The new agreement will see the average swim teacher’s pay boosted in excess of 20%, the reintroduction of penalty rates and a significant improvement for young teachers who will now be paid as adults, regardless of their age.

The negotiating team is continuing its great work and is now getting out speaking to members as they draft the terms of the new agreement. If you would like to read more, click here.

Minding your own business

It is very important that you keep track of your financial affairs, we all know that, and yet so many people never bother to check on their superannuation balances and other important matters that influence their wellbeing.

AWU Victorian Industrial Director Craig Winter advises all members to check their superannuation balances every quarter. “It’s a very simple thing to do, and it will tell you whether or not your employer is making the correct contributions,” he says.

The same goes for those who may be in portable long service leave funds, such as  CoINVEST, or a redundancy fund such as Incolink. You should be checking that the correct money is going in there on your behalf.

As Craig points out, when employers fall significantly behind in payments, it is often a pretty good indication that things aren’t going too well. If it is simply a case of poor practice, well, that should be corrected very quickly. Either way, you need to know.

If you check your balances and find something amiss, get on to your Organiser as soon as possible to get things sorted.

Attention to detail

Simple things like keeping your contact details current are also important when it comes to

securing what is your due. It is essential that all relevant funds have your address so that you can keep up to date with statements and announcements.

You should also be saving payslips, whether in hard copy or online, they contain information in relation to super and a lot of other things, as well as your pay rate, of course.

Many of you have a number of deductions made from your pay, such as health insurance mortgage repayments and other financial arrangements. Your payslip gives you a record of whether or not that money is going to the right place.

“It’s all about good housekeeping,” Craig says. “These are all very simple things to do in order to protect yourself.”

Safety first

Safety has always been top priority for the AWU Victorian Branch. We have had a dedicated Safety Unit for many years now, which has significantly contributed to the well-being of our members. AWU Victorian Safety Director Percy Pillai continues to be one of our greatest assets.

This week, Jim Ward who was previously part of our Victorian Safety Unit, but is now the AWU’s National Safety Director ran an important training day with our Organisers to make sure they are up to speed on all current safety matters.

It was a day that reaffirmed that the safety message is very much part of the DNA of this branch, with Organisers demonstrating their strong understanding and commitment to safety.

If you have any matter of concern in relation to safety, do something about it. Talk to your HSR, your Organiser or contact the Victorian Safety Unit on 03 8327 0888.


If you are a Delegate or HSR and due for training, have a look at the AWU training schedule for the rest of the year by clicking here.

HSRs have a couple of dates coming up for which there are still some vacancies. There is a one-day refresher on 19 April, and the next five-day course starts on 1 to 3 May, with the final two days on 29 and 30 May. Courses are WorkSafe-approved and are acknowledged as being of the highest standard. 

You can book by writing to, or by ringing Jelica Addamo on 03 8327 0888. Remember, every HSR has the right to initial five-day training, followed by an annual one-day refresher.

Keep in touch

I am always pleased to hear from members about any matters they want to raise with me. If you write to me at I will answer your email as soon as possible. You can also write to me if you would like me to visit your worksite.

If you are working alongside people who are not AWU members but should be, please talk to them about joining. The greater the membership at any site, the greater our ability to represent you. You can also contact our Growth Team Lead Organiser Shannon Threlfall-Clarke on 0458 555 041 and she can arrange for someone to visit your workplace and sign up new members.

It is important that we can contact you easily about matters of concern to you, so keep your contact details up to date. You can do that by phoning 03 8327 0888 or by clicking here.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget our AWU Victorian Women’s Network Facebook or the Swim Instructors Association pages. These are all important ways in which you can stay up to date with matters that impact your working life.

Until next week, please stay safe, and remember we are always Stronger Together.


Authorised by AWU Vic Sec Ben Davis 685 Spencer St West Melbourne 3003