Published: 27 Jun 2018
Workers at the Kimberly Clark Australia paper mill in Millicent have this week commenced a series of indefinite rolling industrial stoppages in an effort to end a four-year wage freeze.
The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union said workers were frustrated that the company continued to drag its feet after four years of negotiations for a new workplace agreement, during which time there had not been a single pay increase.
They are also angered by the lack of certainty about the long-term future of the mill after multinational owner Kimberly-Clark Corporation earlier this year announced 5,000 jobs would be shed and up to 10 plants closed around the world.
“Negotiations have dragged on since 2014, with wages frozen the whole time, but it is the growing uncertainty about the future of the mill and whether people will even have a job next year that is most difficult for workers to deal with,” said Denise Campbell-Burns, President of the CFMEU Manufacturing Division’s Pulp & Paper District.
“As a result, KCA workers have made it clear they are prepared to take action to secure a modest wage increase and improved redundancy provisions to ensure they are better placed if the mill does close.
“It is a real strain for workers as they live and work under a cloud of uncertainty about what their future holds.
“That’s why the 265 CFMEU members at the mill have launched industrial action, which will include indefinite rolling work stoppages, to try to bring these negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion.”
Ms Campbell-Burns said that union members remained committed to working with KCA to reduce costs to ensure the ongoing viability of the mill, having already proposed significant long term saving measures, but the financial toll of the four year wage freeze was being increasingly felt.
“Since these negotiations began in 2014 there has not been a single pay rises, despite the cost of living for local families steadily rising, meaning hundreds of men and women from the KCA Millicent mill have actually endured a pay cut in real terms,” she said.
“When the largest employer in South Australia’s South East freezes wages, the economic impact of that action flows through to the entire community as hundreds of local families are forced to tighten their belts.
“KCA likes to claim to be a ‘family’ company, but what we’ve seen at Millicent is a workforce held to ransom by the threat of closure, while enduring ongoing, protracted negotiations and a wage freeze.”