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Union moves on wine industry

MOVES are afoot to unionise grape pickers and bring wineries both large and small under a new State Award.

Wineries operate under an Award so old its terms and conditions are below basic legal minimums.

Only wineries based in the South West that crush more than 500 tonnes of grapes a year are covered by it.

The pressure is on to get the new Award in place because it will underpin any Employee-Employer Agreements struck in the wine industry.

The EEAs are expected to be part of WA’s new industrial relations laws.

The draft of the new award, which has been released for public comment, suggests lifting pay rates considerably and bringing all WA wineries under its coverage.

The Australian Workers’ Union’s national office tried to rope WA wineries into the Federal Award, but the industry baulked at that and opted to negotiate updated State coverage.

AWU state secretary Tim Daly said the union would be keen to unionise the industry.

“How successful we are depends on how we go with the award,” Mr Daly said.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry is leading negotiations on behalf of the wine industry.

A spokesman for the chamber said issues surrounding the award should be finalised soon.

WA Farmers’ Federation legal, industrial and employment officer Philip Brunner said extending coverage to all wineries and increasing rates of pay could force some smaller grape growers out of the market.

Those grape growers are already trying to contend with a predicted glut of some grape varieties.

Mr Daly said it was hoped the negotiations over the award could be finalised within two or three months.

He said his union was prepared to make the award as flexible as possible to ensure the local wine industry remained competitive.

“There is no point having the best award in the world in terms of workers’ conditions if it puts wineries out of business,” Mr Daly said.

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