Fears for future of Bingera Mill

Bingera Mill
Bingera Mill Mike Knott

BUNDABERG Sugar claims the future of Bingera Mill could be in doubt if strike action by mill workers goes ahead during the crush.

Up to 100 Bundaberg Sugar workers, out of about 400, are in dispute with the company because they disagree with a proposal to remove rostered days off (RDOs) from staff entitlements.

In protest, the workers are refusing to work overtime or act as mentors to contractors in the workplace.

Bundaberg Sugar general manager of operations David Pickering said the workers' refusal to work overtime had the potential to affect operations at the Bingera Mill, but the company was still not sure how much.

"There is some conjecture on how the overtime ban will work," he said.

"It could reduce the Bingera throughput by about 10%."

Mr Pickering said the Bingera Mill needed to perform to survive.

"If it doesn't pull its weight, people might start to say: 'Do we really need it?'" he said.

Mr Pickering said the company made a compromise offer to workers yesterday in a bid to head off industrial action during the crush.

The original offer from the company was double time for 13 RDOs, with a 3.5% increase a year over three years.

The company yesterday made a compromise offer of double time for 10 RDOs, once again with the 3.5% increase.

Mr Pickering said industrial action was still a threat, but despite this the crush would start as planned next week.

But it appears likely the latest offer will also be rejected.

Electrical Trades Union state organiser Dan Bessell said the offer was made during a meeting with employee representatives and Bundaberg Sugar.

While a vote would still have to be taken, employee representatives had told him they were still not happy with the deal.

"It's an attack on workers' conditions," he said.

"Employees are not concerned about the money, they're concerned about a work-lifestyle balance."

Mr Bessell said the employees worked antisocial hours and they needed the RDOs to do things that could only be done during the day and to spend time with their families.

He said Bundaberg Sugar was at fault for whittling down the workforce and then changing workers' conditions to take up the slack.

Mr Bessell said the union had not ruled out more strike action, but at the moment the only protected action was the overtime ban and refusal to mentor contractors.

Topics:  bingera mill bundaberg sugar business crush jobs strike union

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