Building sites managed by Cape have been left without asbestos removalists for three weeks after the workers went on strike following a take-it-or-leave-it pay-cut deal by the company.
For the last three weeks, the workers, who are supported by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, have toured the region’s Alcoa sites protesting about the pay cuts.
According to the protesters’ spokesperson, Cape’s agreement with Alcoa expired recently, forcing Cape to negotiate a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) with the Australian aluminium company.
Cape, he said, had then offered the workers a 25 per cent pay cut as a condition for them to tender for a new contract with Alcoa.
“For most of us it would be very difficult to live off that,” he said.
According to the workers, asbestos removing is a dangerous job which requires several years of expertise on the field, and is generally undertaken in extreme heat conditions.
“We have workers which have been here for on average 10 to 28 years, we know how to manage the asbestos well, we do encourage diversity, we encourage multi-skilling, we work well outside of our scope of work,” the protesters’ spokesperson said.
“In rewards for our efforts, as a thank you, we’ve basically been told that 25 per cent pay cut is the way forward.
“If we don’t accept that there’s a good chance that we will be made redundant and that other people could come in and do our jobs.”
He said that since initial negotiations with Cape, the workers had reduced their claim log, pushing only for Cape to tender for the new contract with the same trading conditions and a 12-month pay freeze.
However, he said the workers were concerned that if they didn’t agree to the pay cuts the company would tender for the contract with another Cape-owned company.
“We are very uncertain for what the future brings,” he said.
“This is not something that we normally do, we really feel this is our last resource.
“It is a dangerous job which requires a very dedicated and focused approach to it for your own safety and those around you and we know that we are the people that can provide that service to Alcoa.
“If our company needs to do a better job selling that to Alcoa then so be it.”
Cape and Alcoa have been contacted for comment.