Sour dispute goes on

Mike Knott

THE dispute between Bundaberg Sugar and its unionised workers is set to continue after staff refused the company's latest compromise offer.

In a unanimous decision, workers voted against the offer, which had conceded to demands to allow workers to keep their 13 rostered days off (RDOs) a year, plus a 2.5% pay increase each year for three years.

Bundaberg Sugar manager of operations David Pickering said despite the company agreeing to the 2.5% offer on the request of union representatives, workers said they wanted a 3.5% increase as well as to keep both their RDOs and accumulated days off (ADOs).

Staff at Bingera Mill work nine-hour days, which allows them to work a nine-day fortnight with an accumulated day off on the 10th day.

Throughout the dispute, the unions have maintained the workers did not care about wage increases and simply wanted to maintain their lifestyle, which included RDOs.

"But now they want the 3.5% (wage increase), so it's suddenly turned into the money," Mr Pickering said.

"They want to keep not only the RDOs but the ADOs too."

Mr Pickering said during Friday's meeting, Bundaberg Sugar had asked the unions if they would agree to bringing Fair Work Australia in to help conciliate.

"They refused to do that," he said.

Mr Pickering said another meeting had not been scheduled.

"I really don't know what we would talk about at the moment," he said.

Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union state organiser Brad Hansen said the workers were "insulted" by the company's offer.

"Some of the workers work nine hours a day, so that extra hour gives them a paid day off every second week separate to the RDOs," Mr Hansen said.

"They really see it as an insult to put out an offer of 2.5%."

Mr Hansen said the company's request to remove ADOs was a bid to increase productivity and that the union had gone to them with a number of other ways to improve productivity while still allowing staff to take ADOs.

"But unfortunately the company brought the meeting to a halt and did not want to discuss any of these opinions," he said.

Mr Hansen said bringing in Fair Work Australia would waste time.

"We believe we should be discussing this in the current format," he said.

Topics:  bundaberg sugar dispute staff

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