'Important win' - Union laud Fair Work decision as contract battle with Alcoa rumbles on

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) is claiming a legal victory in their ongoing contract battle with Alcoa after the Fair Work Commission sided in their favour last week.

A high-profile dispute between union workers and the international company has been ongoing for two years as a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) for employees is thrashed out.

While the AWU look to hold onto the conditions established over time by union negotiators, Alcoa want to update the EBA to manage their business "without unreasonable restrictions."

The dispute led to workers from Alcoa's Pinjarra, Kwinana, Wagerup, Huntly and Willowdale sites undertaking industrial action last year, with about 1600 employees going on strike for 52 days.

Although the strike ended in September 2018, the parties are seemingly no closer to agreeing a new EBA for workers - with Alcoa looking to terminate the current agreement through the Fair Work Commission.

However, last Friday the full bench of the Commission upheld an appeal by the union, reversing a previous decision from deputy president Abbey Beaumont.

This means the legal stoush is set to continue, but it gives AWU workers a stay of execution as Ms Beaumont's initial decision, made in December 2018, meant they were facing being forced to accept diminished terms.

Newly appointed AWU state secretary Brad Gandy said the Commission's decision last week was a major win for the union.

"The AWU will continue strongly opposing Alcoa's attempts to terminate the current agreement and remains focused on negotiating a new, fair and reasonable agreement as soon as possible," he said.

"This is an important win for all union members - as we are all in this together.

"If the company fixed and addressed the job security element of the agreement, then we would be almost over the line. We've always seen job security as key in these negotiations.

"This could be resolved by the company being sensible and offering something fair and reasonable - or rolling over the current agreement."

Since last year's strike started, Alcoa have offered the AWU new terms on three occasions, but members rejected the proposals each time.

An Alcoa spokesperson said an agreement was being sought.

"Alcoa's aim has always been to establish a new modern EBA that allows us to manage our business efficiently, productively and according to the volatile international market in which we compete, while ensuring our employees continue to enjoy competitive pay and conditions," they said.

"We remain committed to negotiating such an agreement that helps secure our business in Western Australia and allows us to provide jobs for many generations to come."

Details of the appeal decision can be found here.