Industrial action likely: cane

FURTHER industrial action this crush season by Bundaberg Sugar workers could harm two seasons of cane crop, Bundaberg Canegrowers fear.

As Bundaberg Canegrowers and Bundaberg Sugar meet with Australian Workers' Union (AWU) employees tomorrow night to discuss the possibility of a workers' overtime ban, growers have lamented the timing of the possible industrial action.

“It's what I've said all along - we don't want any industrial action now. It would be a benefit to all parties to get them (cane crops) harvested,” Bundaberg Canegrowers' Allan Dingle said.

“We very briefly spoke to Bundaberg Sugar (yesterday), and all they've told us is they're not exactly sure what's happening yet, but there could be some form of an overtime ban.”

Mr Dingle said it was frustrating timing, with about 20% of crops still to be harvested and three weeks left in the season.

In a letter leaked to the News-Mail, Bundaberg Canegrowers expressed concern over crops already showing drought stress, significant rattooning losses (new sprouts for the next season) if it is not harvested before November 10, and a crash in the sugar content of the cane.

Bundaberg Canegrowers said in the letter they had been advised Bundaberg Sugar employees had “changed their minds” and rejected the travel leave agreement brokered on August 29, imposing an overtime ban instead.

The document expressed the “dismay” canegrowers felt over the decision and said since their grower members were encouraged by the late-August agreement, they had made a number of business decisions on the basis the agreement had been finalised.

Bundaberg Sugar employee relations manager David Pickering said the overtime ban could take place from Thursday.

“We have been talking with the unions and there has been talk of notices of action to be taken, and also notices to have Fair Work Australia involved,” Mr Pickering said.

“It will have some impact, but not the same as all-out industrial action.”

AWU organiser Tony Beers confirmed he was aware members have been in talks about the overtime ban.

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