Mill action looms

SPECULATION is mounting that further industrial action could be imminent for Bundaberg Sugar, after mill workers rejected an offer made during “peace talks” five weeks ago.

Rolling stoppages and a lock-out stopped the crush in August, but hopes were raised for resolution when unions and Bundaberg Sugar management agreed to continue discussions.

While the return to negotiations on August 31 was initially hailed by unions as a “victory for workers, their families and common sense”, talks have again soured over Bundaberg Sugar's offer of an 11% pay rise over the next two and a half years.

Yesterday, Australian Wor- kers' Union organiser Tony Beers confirmed that employees have rejected the re-negotiated Bundaberg Region Sugar Agreement.

However, he would not confirm rumours that another strike was on the way.

“The workers did reject the offer, and we are trying to arrange further talks,” Mr Beers said.

“I could not comment on the likelihood of industrial action.”

The first round of negotiations was stalled by conflict over the company's plan to buy out five days of “travel leave”, which was scrapped after it became clear the workers were not going to budge on the issue.

But Mr Beers would not shed light on the cause of the latest breakdown.

Bundaberg Sugar's David Pickering, who came under fire from unions over his handling of the previous negotiations, confirmed that talks were being arranged.

“We are trying to schedule talks for later this week,” Mr Pickering said.

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