GrainCorp locked in Vic pay battle

AUSTRALIAN Workers Union (AWU) members are weighing up industrial action at GrainCorp sites in Victoria due to a wage dispute.

Voting on whether to take protected industrial action against a wage increase the AWU claims is below the inflation rate will be tallied later this week.

The action centres on negotiation over a Victorian enterprise agreement.

AWU acting Victorian secretary Liam O’Brien said the dispute centred on inequal wage increases following the bulk handling giant posting a massive half year profit on the back of the bumper 2016-17 harvest.

GrainCorp recently announced to the Australian Securities Exchange that it had made a half year profit of $100 million after tax.

The AWU alleges GrainCorp is not rewarding the loyalty shown by workers.

“Grain handlers accepted low pay rises two years ago after GrainCorp cried poor (following poor profits caused by dry seasons), but GrainCorp then turned around and boosted executive salaries by between 3 and 15 per cent once the situation improved,” Mr O’Brien said.

In contrast the AWU says workers have been offered wage increases of just 1.8pc and have also been asked to accept inferior conditions.

GrainCorp spokesperson Luke O’Donnell said he was hopeful of a swift resolution to the dispute.

“We are currently working with our Victorian grain handlers and their representatives on a new workplace agreement, with ongoing assistance from the Fair Work Commission,” he said.

“We have a good relationship with our team and are hopeful of finding a mutually beneficial outcome.”

Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann said he hoped the dispute would not impact outloading programs, but added at face value he felt the workers had a valid point.

“These workers are the guys that are keeping the sites open and moving the grain, which has been critical this year.”

“It does not seem right to see an executive team award itself generous pay rises while not doing the same for those doing the hard yards on the ground.”

The AWU claims GrainCorp wants to water down security measures in the latest agreement, including removing  provisions against forced redundancies and allowing them to pay casuals and labour hire workers less than the permanent workforce.

It also said wage data from the 2011 Census being used by GrainCorp was misleading as it included unemployed people in the figures.

The union estimates there are over 1000 employees at peak harvest time that will be impacted by the agreement at sites at ports and in the Western District, Central Victoria, the North East and the Wimmera-Mallee.

Should industrial action take place it would be the second strike to impact the Victorian grains industry this year.

Earlier in the year movement of grain to Victorian ports was severely hampered by a strike by Pacific National grain train drivers.