Hundreds of Alcoa workers striking over a negotiation breakdown between the company and the Australian Workers Union (AWU) took their fight to the steps of Parliament House on Wednesday.
For the past 18 months, both parties have failed to settle on conditions of a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) for the mining giant’s Western Australian operations.
About 1600 workers have gone on indefinite strike over the dispute, in an attempt to protect their job security and to keep their current conditions.
The industrial action started on August 8, when about 1200 people gathered at Pinjarra’s local sporting grounds to show their support.
Since then, local workers have remained committed to the protest, along with their colleagues from Alcoa’s Kwinana, Wagerup, Huntly and Willowdale facilities.
The trip to Parliament House came after employees voted to stay on strike indefinitely at a meeting in Pinjarra on August 17.
As smoke billowed out from temporary fire pits and iconic Australian pub rock blared in the background last Friday, workers feet remain firmly placed at the Alcoa Pinjarra Alumina Refinery entrance.
Throughout the morning, horns sounded by passing motorists were welcomed with loud cheers from workers on the picket line.
Among those in the crowd was Janice Williams.
The protest is a familiar scene for the Mundijong resident who has worked at the refinery for the past 19 years.
Ms Williams had been told her job as a cleaner was in jeopardy just six years earlier.
Now, in a new role as a central maintenance store person, she has found herself facing the same concerns.
Through day and night, Ms Williams said she – like many others – would continue to show their support on the front line.
Other workers, who preferred not be named, said their motivation was driven by job security rather than pay.
On Friday, Canning Labor candidate Mellissa Teede and Murray-Wellington MP Robyn Clarke were also at the protest.
Ms Clarke said she decided to check in with local workers after she heard the result of the vote but shied away from being photographed at the picket line.
Premier Mark McGowan and his deputy Roger Cook also took an interest in the industrial action by joining strikers at the picket line outside of Alcoa's Kwinana operations on Wednesday.
Forrestfield MP Stephen Price, who was the AWU's WA boss before entering parliament last year, told the protest Alcoa had been making an "absolute motza" out of the state's natural resources.
"Alcoa will be out there painting a picture that this is the union trying to look after themselves," he said.
Mr Price said the protest was really about job security.
"The fact that you have such good terms and conditions in your employment, which are protected by the current agreements you've got, is why everyone is here and why everyone would like to get a job at Alcoa."
Mr Johnston told the striking workers he hoped they got "justice out of this action".
"Be assured that the Labor party is very happy to stand in support of working people"," he said.
The mining giant reacted to the unanimous vote in a statement on Friday, declaring they were “disappointed" the AWU would continuing industrial action across WA.
“This action is unnecessary and will only serve to impact employees through lost earnings,” a spokeswoman said.
She said Alcoa would ask employees to vote on the new agreement later this month.
“Alcoa wants to continue to attract and retain the best people to run our operations, so we have offered employees a generous EBA that provides income growth on top of their already very competitive pay and conditions,” she said.
“The EBA seeks to address employee concerns about job security and includes a commitment to call for voluntary redundancies, in the event changes to the workforce are required, and a generous redundancy package well above national employment standards.
“We encourage our employees to carefully consider the generous offer we have put to them, and to take the opportunity to have their say on their EBA.”
To read the full statement by Alcoa visit their website.
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