Deal needed to halt steelworker strike

Despite posting a $1.4 billion loss, BlueScope Steel boss Paul O’Malley is confident the company’s Australian businesses have turned the corner.Steelworkers from Port Kembla’s strongest union could walk off the job as early as this week if a deal can’t be reached with BlueScope Steel over a new enterprise agreement.

In a strike ballot last week, almost 500 Australian Workers Union members voted in favour of protected industrial action ranging from short to indefinite stoppages.

However, the result does not mean that action is certain.

Port Kembla branch secretary Wayne Phillips said negotiations with the company yesterday were “more amicable” in the wake of the ballot.

BlueScope Steel in ‘stronger position’

“We’ve put some propositions to the company and we’re meeting them again … so hopefully we will come really close to resolving this,” he said.

Mr Phillips said BlueScope had already been notified of a planned 24-hour stoppage at the Springhill site tomorrow, which would follow a shorter protest by two other unions earlier this month.

The protected action could spread to the main steelworks as early as Friday, although Mr Phillips was hopeful that a deal would be struck.

“I’m pretty hopeful that they will come back with the right responses … and we can call off Wednesday and we can call off Friday,” he said.

“We don’t want to go into dispute but if we do, we’re going to go for broke. The ball’s in their court.”

BlueScope Steel yesterday confirmed a $1.04 billion loss for the last financial year.

Regarding the negotiations, BlueScope chief executive officer Paul O’Malley said there had been “very constructive engagement happening … behind closed doors”.

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