Unions line highway to demand Albemarle talks
Unions have used the heavy flow of holiday-makers travelling south on Forrest Highway over Easter in a bid to garner support in a battle with Albemarle.
The action was sparked by a breakdown in talks between unions and the US company about securing jobs and higher wages at the lithium plant under construction.
Albemarle says hiring is “premature” given commissioning of the Kemerton Plant is not scheduled until 2021.
But Australian Manufacturing Worker’s Union State secretary Steve McCartney said the company had made a commitment to talk about an agreement before last month’s sod-turning but had not returned to the table since.
“Once they got that opening ceremony they put their representative on a plane and said ‘stuff it’ to us,” he said.
“What Albemarle is trying to do is get people that are used to working in this area for good wages and conditions to trade those in.
“This plant was supposed to be the great white hope for workers who are facing diminishing demand for power supply through coal and we don’t want that great white hope to turn into something rubbish.”
Members from the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union and the Electrical Trades Union joined those from the AMWU, lining the highway carrying flags and placards.
Passing drivers slowed down as they drove through the corridor of more than 100 union members and some showed their support by honking their horns.
“We figured there is a few cars coming down this road today so we knew it would be the day to do this,” Mr McCartney said.
“This is just the first step – right now we are educating the public about what the problem is, the second step is going to be educating (Albemarle).”
State secretary of the CFMEU Mick Buchan said the unions were sick of multinationals ripping off workers.
“Every dollar that these big multinationals squeeze out of the wages and conditions of local workers is one less dollar that goes into the local economy,” he said.
An Albemarle spokesman said discussions were held “in good faith with the AMWU last month and we have nothing further to add at this time”.
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