Downer strike: union members vote to walk off job in Newcastle over pay dispute

Striking Downer workers on the corner of Hunter Street and Darby Street opposite the Downer light rail site office

INDUSTRIAL action is slated to continue across Downer work sites in Newcastle, with union members voting to walk off the job again in a series of stoppages next week. 

Electrical Trades Union and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union members have told Downer Group’s engineering, construction and maintenance division managers they will conduct four-hour stoppages on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The unions estimate 430 tradespeople will take part in the action, which comes less than a fortnight after a three-day stoppage in which union members marched to the Newcastle light rail project. 

Workers involved in the action wilI walk off projects including the Newcastle Light Rail construction, the Williamtown RAAF base extension, Eraring and Bayswater power stations and the Mount Thorley and Mount Arthur mines, the two unions said.  

The industrial action stems from ongoing pay negotiations. The Newcastle Herald has reported staff are seeking a 3 per cent pay rise while Downer have offered a 2.25 per cent pay increase that “includes no changes to existing conditions”.

ETU state secretary Dave McKinley said the company was seeking to remove weekend penalty rates through shift rostering. 

“Worst of all, Downer has now threatened employees that if they don’t agree to this substandard deal they will face redundancies, despite the company’s own financial statements revealing the division’s profits are surging and they currently have $1.5 billion worth of work in hand,” Mr McKinley said. 

A Downer spokeswoman said the company had held further discussions on its enterprise bargaining agreement in the past week. 

“We remain steadfast that we have offered a sustainable and fair 2.25 per cent pay increase,” she said. 

“We will put the agreement to a vote of employees next Tuesday, June 26. While we accept that some workers have chosen to exercise their right to take industrial action, we don’t believe that a strike is necessary given the impending vote.”


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