Mass strike action is likely at BlueScope Steel as Port Kembla steelworkers prepare to fight tooth and nail against what unions say will be another 100 job losses.
The embattled steelmaker is considering a second round of redundancies less than 12 months after it axed 1000 positions as part of a widescale restructure.
The new plan has angered union officials, who vowed that talks over a new enterprise bargaining agreement next Monday would be the company’s last chance to change course.
‘‘I am more than confident to say we will be in a major campaign with BlueScope Steel within a month,’’ Australian Workers Union (AWU) Port Kembla branch secretary Wayne Phillips said. ‘‘A line’s been drawn in the sand and we will now take this on, head on with the company, and do whatever we have to do to protect our numbers.
‘‘Following our negotiations Monday, the combined unions will be lodging into Fair Work [Australia, an application] for protected industrial action where we will now take the company on legally.’’
The AWU copped some internal criticism for not taking a tougher approach to fight the mass retrenchments announced last August. But it now plans to dig in against any further cuts.
Mr Phillips said while he backed the union’s approach, any previous goodwill with BlueScope had evaporated.
He said the company had confirmed it would target up to 100 jobs.
Twelve positions have been earmarked in the coke ovens and batteries under a planned restructure, which includes automating a piece of equipment known as the hot car. Another 30-35 are likely to be affected at the shops and services department at Springhill.
Mr Phillips said a similar number were expected to go at the electrical shop, while about 20 would be cut in basic oxygen steelmaking and slab casting.
BlueScope Steel did not confirm any of the union’s claims yesterday. ‘‘The company does not comment publicly on industrial relations matters,’’ a spokesman said.
Negotiations over a new bargaining agreement began in February but were adjourned in late March - Mr Phillips said because the union recognised that the company was struggling.
The BlueScope spokesman said the AWU had asked for a deferment.
Mr Phillips said the mood among workers was one of ‘‘extreme anger’’.
Delegates from the AWU and other unions last night voted to apply for protected industrial action if the steelmaker didn’t meet its demands on Monday. They also voted not to accept any more retrenchments until there was a complete restructure of staff and management positions.
‘‘We are extremely top heavy in Port Kembla and ... if they’re serious about bloody saving money then they need to chop a swathe through the staff ranks,’’ Mr Phillips said. Without extra workers, co-ordinated strike action could cripple steel production.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.