End in sight for sugar dispute

BUNDABERG Sugar and the Australian Workers' Union may finally resolve their dispute over pay and conditions today after a day-long meeting yesterday.

Fair Work Australia commissioner Paula Spencer spent the day locked in talks with members of the two parties, aiming to resolve both the threat of industrial action and the enterprise bargaining dispute.

Commissioner Spencer is expected to hand down her recommendations early this morning.

The NewsMail contacted Bundaberg Sugar for a comment and was told they would be making no media comment until today.

Australian Workers' Union central district secretary Keith Ballin was also tight-lipped, but said while both parties had started with positions poles apart, they had moved closer together as the talks went on.

Fair Work Australia became involved in the row, after cane growers raised concerns about delaying the crush, with dry weather impacting on the current crush and concerns about the impact on the 2010 crop.

Canegrowers Bundaberg chairman Allan Dingle said representatives from the organisation had travelled to Brisbane last Thursday to put their case to the commissioner.

A submission was made on Friday for the commissioner to consider over the weekend before yesterday's meeting.

Mr Dingle said if agreement could not be reached, it was hoped the final weeks of the crush could be completed first.

In August, rolling stoppages and a lock-out halted the crush, with workers returning after Bundaberg Sugar put two offers on the table.

Australian Workers' Union members rejected any offer early this month.

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