Laminex workers in stop work action over pay dispute

THE removal of tomato sauce from the tea room and an ongoing wage dispute resulted in a 24-hour stop-work action at a Ballarat manufacturing plant yesterday.

About 85 workers at the Laminex Group’s Wendouree decorating plant, in Trewin Street, began protected industrial action at 7am – almost six months after negotiations began.

Another 24-hour stop-work action is scheduled for next Thursday at 7am.

The Laminex Group bills itself as “Australasia’s leading manufacturer, distributor and wholesaler of decorative surfaces and related products.”

Workers say they were originally offered a 1.5 per cent pay rise, which was rejected, but have now been offered 2.5 per cent.

At the site yesterday, representatives from the CMFEU, AMWU and the ETU said they would go no lower than a 4 per cent increase.

Laminex worker and AMWU delegate Daniel Andrews said unions had reached a stalemate in negotiations.

“We were negotiating and they’re weren’t – they were just saying ‘no’ to everything,” he said. “Now they refuse to meet us.”

Fellow worker Brett Aspland described Laminex’s actions as “penny-pinching.”

“They’ve taken away our newspapers, cordial and sauce,” he said.

“If tea and coffee wasn’t in our (previous) EBA, they’d be gone too.”

Laminex Group executive general manager David Surveyor said the company was negotiating in “good faith” with employees for six months.

“Australian manufacturing continues to face challenges through increased cost pressures and it is important we remain market competitive,” he said.

“Like many Australian manufacturers, we have undertaken action over the last 12 months to lower our cost base.”

Mr Surveyor said the 2.5 per cent offer “strikes a balance” between a wage increase and tackling difficult economic conditions. 

“The data available to us shows that our wages are above the average for the local region,” he said.

jordan.oliver@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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