General Trade, Mining and Manufacturing

General Trade, Mining and Manufacturing

Serious Safety Concerns at Visy Tumut

Paul Lister - Thursday, February 25, 2016

In October and November last year the Visy paper mill located in Tumut underwent is annual shutdown to facilitate major maintenance and upgrade work. During this period an increased number of contractors attended the site to undertake work around control systems, wiring, switchgear and other electrical work.

The shutdown was marred by multitude of safety problems and other issues. The ETU had concerns relating to fatigue as electricians were required to work 12 hour shifts while commuting long distances, in some cases more than 100 kilometres each direction.

The first day of the shutdown saw a major incident when a large section of roofing collapsed. The ETU was astounded by Visy managements response after they simply said “lucky no one was there”. If only this was true! At least one worker had to dive under a table to escape the falling roof section measuring 40 meters by 15 meters. The ETU understands that there were at least 5 or 6 workers onsite and in the vicinity.

A list of other safety incidents at the Visy site include:

  • Two Electric Shock incidents with one resulting in a 4th year apprentice being hospitalised.
  • Crane Rollover outside the perimeter of the site with Rural Fire Service, Police and Ambulances responding.
  • Two switch rooms infiltrated by water resulting in explosions and the need to rebuild them.
  • A worker suffered burns from caustic or acid solutions during the replacement of control gear.
  • Repeated sounding of Gas Alarms at the site.
  • Delay in allowing ETU officials to immediately enter the site under WH&S right of entry – the company delayed entry by two and a half hours.
  • Excessive hours with some EBAs including a minimum of 12 hours per day for 6/7 days straight.

The ETU also has concerns that union members maybe being targeted by management after the company made changes to individual staff working conditions after safety concerns were raised and complaints were made.

The ETU is continuing to monitor the Visy site closely while providing members with industrial support.

Extreme Heat Forcast for NSW

Paul Lister - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Weather forecasters are predicting that parts of NSW and the ACT will experience high temperatures over the coming days.

All members must be aware of the dangers of heat stress and familiarise themselves with the unions working in heat policy (2003), your employer’s heat management policy and the WorkCover code of practice for managing the work environment.

In summary ETU members should observe the following as a minimum but individuals should take appropriate action depending on your individual health and work situation: 


Continuous work with normal breaks.


Minimum 15-minute break per hour worked.


Mandatory - stop work - do individual (Personal) risk assessment and determine if work is to continue, that work undertaken to be limited to fault and emergency or finalisation of current work (No New Work).


Please use these links to access a full copy of the ETU Working in Heat policy (2003)Workcover NSW’s website with details about working in heat and the Bureau of Meteorology for current weather forecasts (click on the map for your local forecast).

Members should exercise extreme care as temperatures rise. If you have any questions please contact your workplace delegate or ETU organiser.

ETU secures real wage growth for members working at Silanna and Parmalat

Paul Lister - Thursday, December 03, 2015

ETU members working for Silanna – a Sydney based manufacturing company producing computer components – yesterday sealed a new workplace agreement delivering a 9% wage increase over three years and increases to compassionate leave entitlements and no trade off’s.

ETU Organiser Ben Lister said that members had set their sights on a 5% annual increase but said the final outcome was an excellent result given the state of the manufacturing sector in Sydney and across the state.

“Wages growth in the private sector for the past year was 2.2 per cent which goes to show the deal secured by the ETU for our members at Silanna is a great result.” Ben said.

“The manufacturing sector is under pressure and in some places like the steel industry and food manufacturing ETU members have been forced to choose between job cuts or total plant closure, let alone even considering wage increases.”

On another front ETU members working for Parmalat – a major milk producer – will be voting in the next week on a new agreement that will deliver annual increases of 3.25% over a four year agreement delivering total wage increases of 13% for ETU members.

In addition to the healthy pay rise ETU members also secured clauses meaning part-time and casual workers will be offered permanent roles after a six month period, a commitment to engage electrical apprentices and include apprentice rates in the agreement, introduction of a new classification structure and grandfather clause meaning no worker will be disadvantaged and strengthening the existing consultation clause and union delegates charter.

Outside of the agreement Parmalat have also committed to investing in mechanical and electrical workshop upgrades which will improve working conditions for ETU members.

“Negotiations at Parmalat were efficient, mature and constructive with the employer listening to the concerns of workers and offering a fair outcome.” Ben said.

“With CPI currently running at 2.1 percent the outcome at Parmalat delivers real wage growth for ETU members of more than 1.1 per cent every year – this is a really good outcome at a time when redundancies are becoming the norm.” said Ben.

"While we may not have secured every single thing our members wanted when you look at the health of the manufacturing sector and national wage growth ETU members have done bloody well." finished Ben. 

ETU members working at Parmalat will vote over the next week on the proposed agreement with the ETU encouraging members to support the deal.

Poor performance takes the fizz out of Coke

Paul Lister - Wednesday, December 02, 2015

During 2014 Coca Cola experienced a substantial drop in volumes of product being manufactured, a substantially drop in profit and a dramatic drop in their Share price. ETU members have been fighting ever since – both to save jobs and to secure a decent EBA outcome.

Senior Management along with a new CEO analysed the national footprint of manufacturing plants around Australia to assess their on-going viability. The results of that review placed the Northmead Plant in NSW in serious jeopardy of plant closure displacing some 200 workers.

Negotiations for a new Supply Chain Enterprise Agreement commenced in the middle of management’s decision process, meaning, to save the plant and ETU jobs workers were faced with a wage reduction and a reduction in hours.

Initially, losses for some workers were around $20K to $25K going from 12hour shifts back to 8hr shifts and day work.

Negotiations involving all ETU Delegates in the Supply Chain managed to negotiate minimal losses for workers including redundancies, a lower set of pay rates for new starters. A zero % increase to current rates of pay for the first 18ths, with increases to rates of pay coming from reaching Production KPI targets in the last 18ths of the agreement.

Over 155 ETU members in Supply Chain, after understanding the likelihood of plant closure, voted overwhelming to accept the pain, accept the Agreement and maintain the longevity of the Production Plant.

Since their acceptance, the ETU and Management are working together to increase the volume at the Northmead Plant to recover the losses in working hours, and resume the 12hr 24/7 operations at the Plant.

Other Plants around Australia are now experiencing the same pain, with dramatic windback in hours and rates of pay at the Moorabin plant in Victoria and substantial industrial unrest over the enterprise agreement currently being negotiated at The Richlands Plant in Queensland.

A reduction in the normal operations is also being experienced in the Perth Plant.

These plants are under constant threat of closure or termination of their Enterprise Agreements taking rates of pay back to the Award.

ETU members throughout these tough times remain united and are working to recover the Business outcomes along with recovering their hard earnt Wages and Conditions.

Why should workers have to make the sacrifices when Management have, to a large degree, mis-managed the business, given their awareness of the ever increasing effects of competition in the Food and Beverage market place. 

Retired Member Update

Paul Lister - Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Following the most recent campaign meeting of Combined Retired Union Members and Associations, Unions NSW would like to invite retired ETU members to the following events:


Mark Lennon's last Council meeting as Secretary Unions NSW. The meeting will be followed by drinks and snacks. At 6:30pm Peter Fitzsimons will launch the Sydney screening of a historical docu-drama Death or Liberty based on the Eureka Stockade in the Auditorium.

When/Where: 5:30pm Thursday 4th December Trades Hall Auditorium 377 Sussex St Haymarket.


Action Stations - hand out flyers highlighting attacks on the rights of working people:

7:15am Monday 7th December BURWOOD train station.

7:15am Tuesday 8th December STRATHFIELD train station.


Campaign meeting of Combined Retired Union Members and Associations - focus on 2016 an election year.

Where/When: 10am - 12pm Monday 18th January 2016 Sydney Trades Hall, ground floor, training room two, 377 Sussex St Haymarket.


Our living standards, built by past generations of union members, are what make Australia a great place to live. But our living standards are under significant attack. We demand government support for secure jobs & penalty rates; Medicare; quality education for all; public services owned by the people for the people; a secure retirement with decent pensions & superannuation, and, a fair go for all!

Unions NSW and the Combined Retired Union Members Association invite Sydney based active retired union members to join in these activities - a great opportunity to meet other retired union activists.

For more information contact Alison Rahill at Unions NSW tel 02 9881 5923 mob 0414 316 839 Email

Campaign ETU

Bruce Fan - Monday, November 16, 2015


I would like to advise all members that we have introduced a new initiative to try and improve communications with members. The ETU now has a new team called “CAMPAIGN ETU”.  Over the next few months you may be contacted by “CAMPAIGN ETU” about various issues that are running, those issues may include:- 

  • ETU membership
  • Enterprise Agreement campaigns
  • General Campaigning information
  • Calls to action like doorknocking or attending rallies

The “CAMPAIGN ETU” team are located in our Sydney office and will be continuing on for a trial period.  Please feel comfortable in talking to “CAMPAIGN ETU” team members and hopefully we will be able to continue to tweak the operation to better meet the needs of members.  If you are unsure who is contacting you or what they are calling for please contact your local ETU official or ETU office to discuss.

Yours in solidarity

Steve Butler


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ETU win for Parliament House Maintenance Workers

Bruce Fan - Monday, November 09, 2015

A recent dispute lodged with Fairwork Australia by the ETU has resulted in a significant victory for ETU members and their colleagues who work in the maintenance section at Australia’s Parliament House. The dispute arose from a decision made by the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) Employee Relations section to discontinue the application of an entitlement contained in the current EA covering the workplace. The DPS EA is quite clear on the application of an allowance paid to maintenance workers in lieu of the ‘flexibility” that this group must provide for periods when Parliament sits throughout the year.  The Flexibility Payment is clearly defined as an all-purpose payment and it clearly sets out that it is to be paid for overtime, superannuation and all leave. The payment had been applied in this way for over 10 years.

Last year when ETU member Steve Gardner-Pugh took a period of long service leave he noticed his pay was short and that it was short to the extent of the flexibility payment. On his return to work he enquired as to why this had occurred and was told quite abruptly that the department had discovered that they should not be paying this allowance on long service leave due to restrictions contained in the Long Service Leave Act, and it had now stopped for LSL. At no time was the ETU or the employees advised of this decision by DPS to withhold the payment. Steve contacted ETU Organiser Matt McCann through his ETU delegate for assistance and a meeting was arranged to attempt to resolve the issue.

It became apparent pretty quickly that no movement on the impasse could be reached at this level and the ETU notified DPS of its intention to enter into dispute and the matter was subsequently lodged with the Fairwork Commission. According to Matt McCann DPS were unable to explain why they failed to notify the union or the employees prior to making the decision to withhold payment of the flexibility payment.

“We pointed out the clear intention in the agreement was to apply this payment for all forms of leave and they agreed that they understood this as well, but they claimed their hands were tied as there was a problem with other legislation that they felt made the payment illegal”. McCann said.

“We put it to them quite strongly that we felt they were wrong and we also pointed out that it was a clear case of failing to consult on changes that effect employee entitlements” McCann said.

The matter was listed for conciliation in Canberra before DP Kovacic. DPS fronted up with an in house lawyer from the Australian Government Solicitor’s Office who was armed with a bevy of folders and documents ready to argue the legal technicalities of the dispute. The rug was pulled out from under them when McCann pointed out the ETU was not there to argue the merits of technical legal argument on the application of the LSL Act, but would be focussing on a fundamental and core principle of the Fairwork Act and that is “the intent of the parties at the time an agreement is made”. In its oral submission the ETU successfully established that the intent of the parties was always to apply the allowance to LSL and that effectively this intent had not changed by their own admission. They conceded that the decision was based on legal advice from internal sources. It was suggested that maybe their legal advice could be wrong and had they could have sought external independent advice, before making the final decision, they conceded they had not, and that maybe they should have. A recommendation was made by DP Kovacic that DPS seek external legal advice and if that found in favour of the employees, then the department should be able to rely on that advice and continue to apply the established intent.

The advice provided found strongly in favour of the ETU and the department then agreed to back pay all affected employees including some who received a belated bonus to their redundancy payments after taking earlier redundancies in late 2014. The ETU ran this matter on behalf of other unions covered in the maintenance section. In summing up the victory Matt McCann said “It was great to get a positive result for our members who stood up on this, to be honest a lot of credit should go to Neville Betts who pointed out the intent of the parties’ angle when some of our own legal advice suggested we may not have a strong case”.

Long-time ETU member Steve Gardner-Pugh who attended the hearing also later thanked the ETU in an email stating “Fantastic result! Thanks again on behalf of all our guy’s very impressed with the handling of this matter, and as a personal note, thanks it was great to see how you roll”.

Sydney manufacturing sector continues to face challenges

Paul Lister - Friday, October 30, 2015

ETU Organiser Steve Robinson recently gave the Sydney manufacturing sector a health check declaring that the sector is likely to remain in intensive care in the immediate term.

Steve said the manufacturing in the aluminium and copper sector continues to suffer with job losses and plant closures highlighting that a local Penrith plant was forced to close in recent months. Other company’s facing challenges include Coca Cola and OI Glass – both of which operate glass manufacturing plants in Western Sydney.

“Coca Cola and OI Glass are both coming under pressure from off shore competition and just like the steel industry, glass is doing it tough too.” said Steve.

Manufacturing in the engineering and mining sectors continue to decline coming off the back of the mining down turn which has resulted in many companies being taken over or merged.

Things are somewhat better in the food manufacturing sector with fewer redundancies while these companies also continue to provide pay increases and some new apprentice opportunities.

Steve said that the NSW Government and Federal Government both had a lot to answer when it comes to industry support.

“In recent years we have watched as the NSW and Federal Governments have walked away from the Australian manufacturing sector.” said Steve

“Government support and contracts are no longer guaranteed with the vehicle manufacturing industry and submarine debacle being clear examples of how our government have deserted this sector.

“I keep hearing all of this nonsense that the China Free Trade Agreement will be good for Australia but all I can see is further off shoring of Australian jobs through the lack of government support.” said Steve.

Some of the impacts being felt by ETU members in the manufacturing sector include:

  • Reductions in Working Hours.
  • Employers negotiating Lower rates of Pay for new starters (two Tier System)
  • Reductions in Wages either from reduced Hours or Negotiations by the Employer
  • Redundancies
  • Reductions in Conditions of Employment
  • Wage Freezes for 12mths to 2 years in many instances.
  • Low wage increases below the State Government Wage Policy
  • Company Takeovers
  • Company Closures


Bluescope Mass Meeting

Paul Lister - Thursday, October 29, 2015


A mass meeting of all members will be held.

Time: 7.00 am

members who cannot attend due to work commitments

When: FRIDAY 6th NOVEMBER 2015
Time: from 5.30am


Voting for the new Enterprise Agreements

Please ensure that you attend as we need to count the votes that are in favour of or against the respective agreements.

Bluescope Steel To Continue Production In The Illawarra

Paul Lister - Monday, October 26, 2015

ETU members at Bluescope Steel in the Illawarra have today learned their fate as the Bluescope Board announced that they will continue to produce Australian Steel by keeping the plant open after working with employees to secure savings.

The Board also announced that the company was successful in securing payroll tax concessions which would see the deferment of payroll tax payments meaning the Port Kembla Steel Works would remain open.

ETU Assistant Secretary Dave McKinley, who has been directly involved with the BlueScope matter, said that this was a bitter sweet win for ETU members who have today secured their jobs for the immediate future.

“Make no mistake the only reason Bluescope Steel will be open for business tomorrow is because of the selfless actions of the hard working and committed employee’s.” said Dave.

“ETU members were among thousands of workers who selflessly gave up hard fought conditions with the hope of a secure job at the end of it all.”

“Today is a victory for workers at Port Kembla, albeit a bitter sweet one.” Dave said.

Prior to the completion of EBA negotiations earlier this year Bluescope announced the future of steel making at Port Kembla would be under review.

Bluescope management stated that the board had demanded $200 million in savings or they would close steel making at Port Kembla. This would see the importation of Hot Rolled Coil used for production at the Springhill plant.

The combined unions understood that this was no idle threat and that the closure of steel making would amount to thousands of jobs lost in the region with only the Springhill plant left operating

As a result and following discussions with members, the combined unions agreed to withdraw applications for protected industrial action and enter into meaningful discussions on ways to keep the steel works open.

It was agreed to enter into negotiations mediated by Deputy President Hatcher of the Fair Work Commission and overseen by President Ross. Over the following eight weeks the combined unions negotiated with management over savings that would keep steel production open and save thousands of jobs.

This culminated in the unions taking a recommendation to members who voted to accept a wide range of changes to their working conditions including over 200 redundancies amongst wages employees and over 170 redundancies of salaried employees.

With this guarantee the Unions will be taking the new EBA to a vote next Thursday 5th November.