HON. WAYNE SWAN MP
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR LILLEY
CONSTITUENCY STATEMENT (ALCOA)
FEDERATION CHAMBER, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2018
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I rise in support of a constituency that’s been consistently left out in the cold by the Coalition Government and by some of this country’s biggest businesses.
As a proud member of the Australian Workers’ Union for nearly all of my adult life, I stand in solidarity with the 1600 AWU members working at Alcoa in Western Australia, who have entered Day 36 of industrial action.
The employees of Alcoa at five sites across WA are the latest casualties of the merge, purge and gouge mentality of some multinationals in this country, aided and abetted by the Coalition Government’s all-out assault on workplace conditions.
Following more than 20 months of enterprise bargaining negotiations, Alcoa’s workers have now taken indefinite industrial action against their multinational employer.
The workers are simply asking the company to preserve existing workplace conditions.
Instead, Alcoa wants to terminate the current employment contract and force workers to accept an inferior offer – an offer which introduces forced redundancies, an offer which keeps casual workers casualised, and an offer which locks in a real pay cut for thousands of employees.
When this substandard workplace agreement was put to Alcoa’s 1600‑strong workforce – some of whom have worked for the company for more than 30 years – an overwhelming 80 per cent voted it down.
Deputy Speaker, nobody enjoys a strike. It’s not just the act of standing out in the cold and wind and rain – an appropriate metaphor for the contempt that this government, and some of its big business backers, have for working people.
It’s not just the loss of income – each striking worker in WA has already given up thousands of dollars in pay.
The Alcoa workers simply want secure jobs and fair conditions – the jobs and conditions that they’ve fought for decades to establish.
The Coalition Government claims to hate regulation, but it’s the first to break out the red tape dispenser if it can be used to restrict the right of workers to take industrial action against unfair conditions.
The truth is, Deputy Speaker, that when it comes to driving down wages and ripping up workplace conditions, this Government and multinational companies like Alcoa are joined at the hip.
Alcoa is known to have made hundreds of millions of dollars in corrupt payments to officials in Bahrain for over 20 years, but it hasn’t been able to guarantee its loyal workers the same pay and conditions for the last 20 months.
What does it say about the industrial relations system in this country when a multinational can pay bribes, but it can’t pay its workforce?
Now Alcoa is firmly engaged in a sick race to the bottom against other multinationals, where each company competes to minimise tax, supress wages and casualise its workforce.
Deputy Speaker, I lend my strongest support and solidarity to the AWU members at Alcoa in Western Australia, I applaud them for their courage and I wish them a speedy and satisfactory resolution to their industrial action.
MEDIA CONTACT: DANIEL DE VOSS 0403 775 158
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra