Thursday, June 27, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Is There A Brighter Day On The Horizon For Wilmar?

Wilmar Sugar and Renewables has urged unions to seriously consider a suggestion made by the company earlier this week in a Fair Work Commission hearing that the parties meet and explore the possibility of independent voluntary arbitration as a means of concluding a new enterprise agreement on fair and reasonable terms.

However, Wilmar claims that the two unions did not immediately take up the offer while the third rejected the option.

The offer to meet and explore the potential of the option of voluntary arbitration will now be put in writing by the company.

A Wilmar Sugar and Renewables spokesman said the company welcomed the assistance of the Fair Work Commission over recent weeks in trying to bring negotiations to a conclusion.

“It is since the Commission’s involvement that we have been able to close the gap between company and union positions, this week managing to specify the ranges within which each party believes agreement might be reached,” the spokesman said.

“At bargaining talks on Thursday, Sugar and Renewables indicated it was looking to an outcome between 14.25% and 15% over 3.5 years, while unions said they were looking to a range between 18% and 22% for a 3-year agreement.

“Unfortunately in the Commission conference today, the unions withdrew their 18% to 22% range, and instead reverted to a claim of 22%.

“Despite the gap having been expanded by unions, we remain committed to exploring all options to bring negotiations to an outcome, including voluntary arbitration,” he said.

“If the parties can agree on the parameters for voluntary arbitration, this is a certain way to test the arguments and the data. We have complete confidence in the information on which we have based our offer and we would expect unions would welcome the same opportunity.”

The Australian Worker’s Union (AWU) claimed that Wilmar “Is now not making an offer to their employees, instead offering a “window” which involves removing employees' right to take accrued RDO hours when they choose.”

A union representative said that despite unions providing indisputable data that the cost of living over the last four years has dramatically outpaced the wage increases Wilmar has paid to mill workers, and the published pay rates of surrounding mills, Wilmar has instead stuck to their “discredited, questionable figures” which include aggregate quarterly inflation figures to artificially lower the rate.

“I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that Wilmar has got the figures wrong again, this is a company that claims four days of industrial action have delayed the start of the crush by several weeks,” AWU Northern District Secretary Jim Wilson said.

The AWU also claimed that at least one mill may have to stop for up to six hours a day due to Wilmar being unable to attract staff at the wages they offer.

“No doubt Wilmar will try to blame this on their workforce as well, and not the below industry standard rates they pay,” Mr Wilson said.

At time of print, a date for further bargaining has not been agreed by the parties.

Gibson Creek Farm in April. Photo credit: Wilmar Agricultural Productivity Manager Peter Larsen

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