Workers meeting with union representatives, who say Bundaberg Sugar’s offer is unacceptable.
Workers meeting with union representatives, who say Bundaberg Sugar’s offer is unacceptable. Mike Knott

Company pushing for an agreement

BUNDABERG Sugar has stepped up its campaign to get workers to vote its way in a ballot to be held on Wednesday.

About 100 workers are in a dispute with the company over its proposal to remove rostered days off from staff entitlements.

The secret ballot, to be held on Wednesday, asks the workers to vote one way or the other about their agreement with the company.

In a front-page advertisement in the NewsMail on Friday, the company laid out its case for the vote to go its way.

In the advertisement, the company says it is working with Bundaberg Canegrowers to increase cane supply in the region.

And it warns that the future of the Bingera Mill is in doubt if there is not enough cane to crush.

The company says it wants workers to work hours that improve productivity while still providing time off for family and recreation.

"We do not need any form of industrial action that could threaten the reliable operation of our mills," the advertisement says.

Bundaberg Sugar operations general manager David Pickering said the advertisement was part of a campaign that had been running for about three weeks.

"We want to keep everyone informed about what's going on because it affects the whole community," he said.

But Daniel Bessell, the Electrical Trades Union state organiser for the Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay, said the agreement that was in place had worked well for the past 20 years.

"What's changed?" he said.

"If they want to prevent industrial action, they need to come back to the table and negotiate in good faith."

Mr Bessell said the company had not met union representatives in more than a month.

He said the company was trying to roll out the new agreement when the union had made it clear it was unacceptable.

"This is the biggest attack on workers' conditions since WorkChoices," he said.

"The company is trying to bully them into taking what's on offer."

Mr Bessell said the company had refused to give the union early access to the proposed agreement so it could examine it closely and compare it to the existing agreement.

He said he could not see how the ballot could have any other result than a rejection of the company's proposed new agreement.

"We're running a 'no' campaign," he said.

"The ball is in Bundaberg Sugar's court."