FAIR pay for a fair day’s work is not an unreasonable thing to ask for, according to some Downer Group’s Engineering, Construction and Maintenance division workers.
The workers are currently working on the South Nowra Correctional Centre expansion project and on Friday they took part in the last day of a campaign to protect their workplace conditions and win a fair pay rise.
Newcastle and Wollongong Downer workers, earlier this week, were also part of the industrial action.
Workers are asking for a 3 per cent pay increase but Downer had offered a 2.25 per cent increase.
Talk to the workers and they will tell you theirs is not an extreme request.
“We have mortgages to pay and all we want is a wage that we can live on,” one worker said.
The workers said they supported the company a few ago when it was struggling.
According to one worker, Downer was on the verge of closing down and the workers agreed to wage freeze and gave up some their pay conditions like travel costs.
“We have gone above and beyond the call of duty and now it’s time for Downer to return the loyalty,” a worker said.
In 2015, to support the company during financial difficulty, the workers decided to forgo a 4.5 per cent pay rise, only taking 2.25 per cent.
Unions Shoalhaven and South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris attended Friday’s protest.
Electrical Trade Union NSW secretary Dave McKinley said workers were outraged that they were being asked to accept cuts to workplace conditions and a minimal pay rise at the same time that Downer had reported surging profits.
“For the last half of 2017, Downer reported that net profit after tax had jumped 8.5 per cent to $78.2 million,” Mr McKinley said.
“Much of that was driven by the Engineering, Construction and Maintenance division, which not only reported having $1.5 billion of work in hand but saw earnings before interest and tax leap 31.6 per cent.
“These profits came on the back of workers enduring a two-year wage freeze, reductions to their site allowances, and lower redundancy benefits.
“These workers are the reason profits are surging, yet they have been denied a fair deal that sees them receive the benefit of their hard work.”
A Downer spokesperson said the company remained “available and willing to have further discussions with employees and unions to negotiate a new enterprise agreement”.
“We have offered a sustainable and fair 2.25 per cent pay increase, which is above CPI and above current market pay rates, and also includes no changes to existing conditions,” the spokesperson said.
However, the union disputed the “current market rates” comment, saying Downer had paid a 3 per cent a year increase to its workers in Victoria and Queensland, along with a return of conditions that were cut in recent years.
The unions have not ruled out future industrial action and the Public Service Association has indicated it will be supporting the construction workers.
There is also an indefinite ban on overtime, at the correctional centre, and the workers are highly skilled tradespeople, including electricians, fitters and boilermakers.