Alcoa simply wants to update outdated EBA

Opinion piece by Alcoa managing director Michael Parker

The industrial action being taken by the Australian Workers’ Union at Alcoa’s WA operations is not assisting in reaching a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement and instead causing unnecessary pain to employees, families and communities. 

We thank those employees who are at work and encourage others to return so they can restore their livelihoods while we resolve this matter. We want this matter resolved and to continue to build on our history of providing secure, well-paid jobs.

For 55 years, Alcoa has operated bauxite mines and alumina refineries in WA and aluminium smelters in Victoria, generating shared benefits. Last year we invested $1.7 billion with local suppliers and paid $655 million in wages and benefits for our 4,275 employees. We have one of the most stable workforces in the country – the average length of service for an AWU member at our WA operations is almost 20 years.

We want to continue to be a valued employer, which is why we need a new modern EBA. Global operating conditions are increasingly volatile and to provide opportunities for future generations, we must be unshackled from outdated work practices. 

We have no plans to downsize or casualise our workforce. We just want the ability to manage our business without unreasonable restrictions. The AWU wants a guarantee employees will never be made redundant. This is not a reasonable expectation.

We have recently reached new EBAs with other unions in WA and Victoria and have been trying to do the same with the AWU in WA for more than 18 months. The EBA we put to AWU members included above market provisions and a commitment to seek voluntary redundancies should workforce changes be needed.

We want to negotiate a fair agreement but need other options to address an outdated, expired EBA. That is why we applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the agreement. If it is terminated, we will maintain current pay and key conditions for six months to protect employees while we work to finalise a new EBA. 

Sincere thanks to employees who are maintaining safe operations during this difficult time. We look forward to resolving this matter so we can return our focus to providing secure, well-paid jobs for generations to come. 

Michael Parker is Alcoa’s Australian managing director