Workers at Note Printing Australia (NPA), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the RBA, stopped work on Friday, demanding a 3.5 per cent pay rise, rather than the industry average rate of 2 per cent the central bank is offering.
“If it is so important to lift wages across the economy then here is a rolled-gold opportunity for the Reserve Bank to show some leadership,” said Tony Piccolo, regional secretary of print division at the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union.
With wage growth in Australia currently stuck in the doldrums, Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe recently called on workers to demand fatter pay hikes.
He told MPs that average annual wage increases need to be around 3.5 per cent to achieve average inflation of 2.5 per cent, the middle of the bank’s target.
The last time wages grew as fast as 3.5 per cent was in the third quarter of 2012.
Mr Piccolo said this was the first time in 107 years that the printing of Australian banknotes had been interrupted by industrial action.
The RBA declined to comment on an ongoing matter, including on whether the strike would have any impact on the availability of currency.
Mr Piccolo said the union was prepared to extend the strike if NPA management did not return to the “bargaining table” next week.
NPA has its only printing facility in Melbourne.
Apart from Australian bank notes, it also prints currencies for other central banks using its polymer substrate technology.
Customers include the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Bank of Thailand, Bank Indonesia and Central Bank of Kuwait.