BlueScope`s general manager for manufacturing, Dave Bell, said the company was happy to “show the hand” of employees to accept the enterprise agreement offer. Anna Patty is Senior Writer for the Sydney Morning Herald focused on higher education. He is a former labour editor, education publisher, state journalist and health reporter. BlueScope had initially stated that it would limit wage increases in the new agreement to 7.5 percent over three years or an annual increase of less than 2.5 percent. Since then, it has been offering 3% a year, a figure that will not keep pace with the rise in the inflation rate. On Tuesday, the company offered more than 1,000 employees a 4% pay increase under a new three-year contract. The second year would be an increase of 4 percent, the third 3 percent, the third year an increase of 3 percent. Bluescope`s board of directors had decided that its steel business would end if no $200 million cost could be saved. About 2,500 steelworkers at the BlueScope plant in Port Kembla, near Wollongong, south of Sydney, will start on Monday with two weeks of rolling stoppages. The interruptions are part of a lengthy dispute over the company`s offer to impose further wage reductions and conditions in a new Enterprise Agreement (EA). The AWU`s attitude of opposing BlueScope`s refusal to pay workers what they owe is a fictitious attitude. The union did nothing to avoid underpayment and acted as the arm of management in reducing the costs of “labour costs”. In addition, the 2015 agreement removed a “status quo” clause in all older EAAs, which allowed the company to implement changes to labour and compensation agreements more quickly to meet shareholder requirements.
Paul Farrow, senior vice-president of the Australian Workers` Union NSW, said the enterprise agreement in principle would be put to a formal vote in the coming weeks, before the Fair Labour Commission considers granting it final approval. Negotiations on the new enterprise agreement continued over a period of more than 12 months and the unions implemented trade union actions for seven months. The offensive continued in subsequent years and the unions closed the Newcastle steelworks by BHP in 1999. Every agreement negotiated by the union in Port Kembla has intensified the rush for jobs and conditions. In the early 1980s, the plant employed about 27,000 workers. There are less than 3000 of them today. This has caused a social crisis in Wollongong and the neighbouring region of Illawarra, characterized by endemic youth unemployment and poverty. Workers at the Port Kembla steelworks have voted in favour of a deal in principle with Australia`s largest steel producer, Bluescope, that will end months of damaging labour disputes.