Thursday 27 July 2017

Weekly Update No. 22/2017


From AWU Acting Victorian Secretary Liam O’Brien


Dear Member


Last Friday the Federal Court of Australia ordered that Scabby the Rat be deflated. It was a victory for MTCT Services, the Esso maintenance contractor cutting workers’ wages by up to 40%, courtesy of a legislative loophole that should be closed sooner rather than later.


Scabby had stood proudly at the vigil outside the Longford Gas Plant and there was an appropriate ceremony as the air drained out of him. Organiser Jeff Sharp tells me the Last Post was played.


So, the “rat known as Scabby” has gone, as ordered by the court, but not forgotten for his contribution to this important campaign. His spirit lives on, as does the 24-hour community protest outside the Longford Gas Plant by members of the AWU, ETU and AMWU, with wide-spread community support. And welcome to Greedy the Fat Cat, who has so ably stepped into the breach.


You can click here to read just one of the stories about Scabby’s demise. Click here to see Greedy the Fat Cat at work.


Have to fight


I cannot urge you strongly enough to get behind this group of workers and the regional community that faces the heart being torn out of it if the race to the bottom continues. Last year it was Esso’s offshore catering contractor that changed, leaving 110 experienced and loyal workers redundant, with those that replaced them paid about one-third less.


It would be easy for these workers to be out of sight and out of mind. They are a long way from the big city.  We cannot allow that to happen, and will not.


If you are anywhere near Gippsland, please visit the community protest. Get onto our Facebook, ‘like’ and share the posts about this situation. Spread the word that these workers matter and that if we allow this to happen to them, we are leaving the door open for more and more good, hard-working Australians to suffer the same fate.


Rally on 3 August – be there


Next Thursday, 3 August at 12pm, you will have a chance to add your voice to the protest at a rally which will be held outside Esso Corporate Headquarters at 12 Riverside Quay, Southbank. Please be there.


SKM Recycling


Yesterday an AWU delegation met Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio to discuss the planned examination of the recycling industry in this state. As you know, the recent fire at SKM Recycling at Coolaroo, led to community outcry that authorities could not ignore.


It is essential that this union is part of any analysis of this sector. Community safety and workplace safety are inextricably combined, as recent events have so graphically demonstrated. There is already a class action launched by nearby residents.


AWU Victorian Safety Director Percy Pillai, Organiser Dave Swan and I were given assurances that the health and safety of workers will be key to any and all investigations. The AWU will represent the interests of workers across the industry in terms of workplace and environmental safety.


Injured worker


SKM was fined $150,000 last week, with an additional $45,000 in costs, as a result of a workplace incident that saw worker Gavin Van La lose his right hand when it was crushed in a bailing machine at Coolaroo in 2014.


The Victorian WorkCover Authority told the court that the company had been put on notice that the bailing machines needed tunnel guards, but had failed to provide them.  The guards could have been installed at minimal cost, the VWA Prosecutor said.


It is a horrifying injury that has left Gavin with physical and psychological damage from which he is yet to recover. I think you can imagine my feelings when I found out this week that insurer Allianz has decided he is fit to return to work and terminated his weekly payments.


This decision is being appealed with vigour.


Orica lock out


Our members at Orica Quarry Services at Deer Park had a 24-hour strike last Friday after 10 months of negotiations towards a new EA stalled with an offer of a wage freeze for the two-year life of the new agreement. The employer responded with a 24-hour lock out on Monday.


The site makes and sets explosives for quarries and is a profitable part of a very profitable multi-national corporation. Productivity at the site is excellent, the best in the country in fact.


Lead Organiser Patrick Wood tells me negotiations have resumed and a new offer has been made, which will be put to members today.




If you work for GrainCorp I hope you have returned the protected action ballot papers you should have received a couple of weeks ago.


Given the uncertain nature of postal deliveries to regional areas these days, the AWU was successful in getting a five-day extension to the period for which the ballot is open. The original closing date of 25 July, was extended to 30 July.


The result of the ballot should be known soon after that closing date and members will be informed of their decision as soon as possible.




A reminder to our members employed by Broadspectrum in hospitality and catering services at defence bases around the state including Puckapunyal, Cerberus, Sale, Simpson and Point Cook, to return your protected action ballots as soon as possible.


If you haven’t received your ballot papers yet, get onto your Organiser immediately. If you have received the papers then vote YES to every question and get it back in the mail to the AEC as soon as possible.


These members are facing an extraordinary battle with an employer whose best offer after 12 months of negotiations is for wage rates that are below the Award.


Domestic violence leave


It is a matter of fact that domestic violence mars the lives of many thousands of Australians every year.  It is a problem that has been largely hidden until recent times, all too often a matter of personal shame, concealed by the victim.


The White Ribbon campaign has gone a long way to starting the community conversation that we have to have in order to address the abuse that goes on behind closed doors. Leaving these relationships presents complex challenges and takes considerable time and courage.


The labour movement is campaigning hard for domestic violence leave to be written into EAs. Five days extra leave to help victims get back on their feet doesn’t sound like much, but it can make all the difference to a person under pressure as they attempt to rebuild their lives.


Organiser Alison Davis has been leading negotiations towards a new EA for our members at Outlook Environmental, an employer which is officially a White Ribbon Workplace. There was no resistance to including five days of paid domestic violence leave in the agreement. Congratulations to the employer, and to Alison. I look forward to the day when every Australian worker has the right to this vital support should they ever need it.




If you’re an HSR or a Delegate and are due for training, please have a good look at our calendar for the rest of the year by clicking here.


There are one-day OHS Refreshers on 23 August, 20 September, 24 October, 28 November and 5 December.  There are also more opportunities for initial five-day OHS training. There is a course starting on 29, 30 and 31 August, and finishing on 18 and 19 September, with another starting on 9, 10 and 11 October finishing on 30 and 31 October. The last for the year starts on 20, 21 and 22 November and finishes on 11 and 12 December.


Don’t forget, HSRs have a legal right to initial five-day training, and to a one-day annual refresher.


There are openings in Stage 1, Stage 2 and Advanced Delegate training, as well as a one-day refresher. Check the dates, and If you have any queries, or you would like to make a booking, either write to or ring 03 8327 0888.


Keep in touch


I welcome your emails about the things that matter. Your comments and ideas are important and help shape the way we go about protecting your rights at work. You can write to me at


It is very important that we can get in touch with our members easily, and quickly. E-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers are vital to that process. If you haven’t supplied all your latest details to us, please do it today. You can ring us on 1300 362 298 (for the price of a local call from anywhere in the state), or you can click here to change your details.


If you are working alongside people who are not union members, talk to them about joining. The greater the number of members at any site the greater our ability to represent your interests. If you would like one of our growth team to visit your workplace you can ring Lead Organiser Shannon Threlfall-Clarke on 0458 555 041 or 03 8327 0888. New members can also join online by clicking here.


Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget to ‘like’ and share items important to your own wellbeing and the future of all Australian workers.


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


Authorised by AWU Acting Victorian Secretary Liam O’Brien 685 Spencer St West Melbourne 3003