UNIONS at Electrolux will have a good case for protected industrial action if the company rejects their request for a 12 per cent pay increase over the next three years, according to Australian Workers Union organiser Alan Haynes.
The company, unions and workers are negotiating a final enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) to take the plant through to its closure in 2016.
Workers will decide on the company’s pay offer next Thursday, but the plant’s four unions are calling for members to vote against the company’s current offer of 10.5 per cent over three years - 3.5 per cent each year.
Unions want a 5 per cent increase in the first two years and 2 per cent in the final year and Mr Haynes does not expect the parties will be able to reach a compromise.
“Electrolux are offering absolutely nothing,” he said.
“We’d like to see Electrolux face up to their social responsibility. They’ve made a lot of money out of Orange and these people.”
Mr Haynes said unlike other companies beginning to wind down, like Downer EDI in Bathurst, Electrolux was not putting enough funds into retraining workers and was waiting for state and federal government assistance.
“I don’t see why the Australian taxpayer should bare the burden, sure contribute something, but it should be up to the company to be socially responsible,” he said.
“We’d like to see Electrolux face up to their social responsibility. They’ve made a lot of money out of Orange and these people"
Electrolux also refused to increase the number of weeks redundancy workers accrued in each year of service and rejected an increase to the maximum redundancy entitlement from the current cap of 70 weeks for workers with 22 years of service or more to 87.5 weeks.
Mr Haynes said if the parties were unable to reach an agreement unions would almost certainly apply to Fair Work Australia for protected industrial action.
“Morale is very bad,” he said.
But Electrolux corporate communications consultant Craig McCarthy said the company wanted to finalise negotiations as quickly as possible and did not believe industrial action would occur.
Mr Haynes said Electrolux claimed absenteeism had increased and attempted to change the existing agreement to crack down on workers, but later backed down on the changes.
Mr McCarthy said the company would prefer EBA negotiations to be conducted in private, but confirmed absenteeism was one of a number of subjects discussed.
“Electrolux is confident of finalising the new EBA irrespective of next week’s vote,” he said.
“As is the nature of enterprise bargaining agreements both parties go back and forward and we eventually get an outcome.”
Mr McCarthy said Electrolux was concentrating on today’s jobs expo and it was “quite clear” from the regular consultative committee meetings with workers, unions and management that most employees were more concerned about their future when the plant started winding down from the third quarter of next year.