Bundaberg Sugar warned unionised staff late Tuesday afternoon it would implement a three-day lockout in response to union notices that staff would take part in rolling one-hour stoppages three times a day for the next two weeks.
Bundaberg Sugar warned unionised staff late Tuesday afternoon it would implement a three-day lockout in response to union notices that staff would take part in rolling one-hour stoppages three times a day for the next two weeks. Mike Knott

End nigh in sugar dispute?

A PROPOSED three-day lockout of unionised Bundaberg Sugar staff came to a speedy end yesterday morning - less than two hours after it started.

Bundaberg Sugar warned unionised staff late Tuesday afternoon it would implement a three-day lockout in response to union notices that staff would take part in rolling one-hour stoppages three times a day for the next two weeks.

But about 9.30am yesterday, only an hour-and-a-half after the employees were locked out, Bundaberg Sugar agreed to let staff back in after the unions agreed to drop all industrial action, including the rolling stoppages and overtime and mentoring bans.

"We agreed that if they lifted all industrial action, we would lift the lockout and we could get on with negotiations," general manager of operations David Pickering said.

Enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations have been ongoing for many weeks, with the main sticking point centring around the removal of rostered days off, a move the employees strongly oppose.

Mr Pickering said original offers had required staff to work all 13 of their RDOs, to be paid out at double time, plus a 3.5% wage increase each year for three years.

"The company (yesterday) made an offer of a 2% wage increase each year over three years, without employees having to work any additional RDOs," he said.

"The union came back and asked if we would agree to a 2.5% increase and the company agreed to do that, so the union has agreed to take that offer to the employees."

Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union state organiser Brad Hansen said the staff would vote on the offer tomorrow.

"Everyone's put their guns back in the holsters," he said.

A long-term Bundaberg Sugar employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said he believed the workers would accept the new offer.

"Those RDOs were the real killer because people don't want to change their lifestyle," he said.

"I'm comfortable with that and I think most others will be too. Everyone would just like to see this finish."

The employee said despite other reports, the industrial action had not affected the crush.

"There's no way we were starting to crush (yesterday) with the weather," the employee said.

"I think (the company is) taking advantage of the industrial action to cover for situations that aren't caused by the action."