National crane company says it can't afford Hunter and Illawarra pay demands

CFMEU organisers Brendan Holl and Mark Cross, outside the Hunter Workers building in Newcastle on Tuesday.
CFMEU organisers Brendan Holl and Mark Cross, outside the Hunter Workers building in Newcastle on Tuesday.

CRANE operator Boom Logistics is facing indefinite strikes at its Carrington, Singleton and Port Kembla yards from 5am today in an industrial dispute that the union says is about workers getting a fair share of record corporate profits.

Boom Logistics is a national crane operator that grew quickly in the past decade but which ran into financial difficulty, racking up almost $55 million in after-tax losses over the past three years, although the most recent loss, of $1.5 million, has been championed by the company as a sign it has turned the corner.

But in leaflets distributed to members, the construction division of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union says Boom’s growth has been at its workers’ expense, with the striking employees going five years without a pay rise.

Boom Logistics managing director Brenden Mitchell says the company is offering the striking workers 15 per cent over three years in Newcastle and 13 per cent over three years at Singleton and Port Kembla, but the union says this offer comes with a big reduction in working conditions at a time when the company is massively ramping up the number of casuals it employs.

Equipment at the Boom Logistics yard at Carrington on Tuesday.

Equipment at the Boom Logistics yard at Carrington on Tuesday.

“The company says it can’t afford (to pay) any more but its own financial records show this is a lie,” the union leaflet says.  It points to increases of 20 per cent or more in executive payments in the 2017 annual report, a trend that continues the 2018 annual report lodged on Monday with the stock exchange.

One of the CFMMEU’s new Hunter area organisers, Mark Cross, says the vote to take indefinite strike action should be read as a sign as to how fed-up the workforce – many of them long-term employees- was with the company.

He also put the strike in a national context, saying: “We’ve got record low wages growth, record household debt and record corporate profits across the board. We need to restore some sort of balance, given we are at a 70-year high in inequality rates.”

Mr Mitchell, who is stepping down next month said the company could not afford to pay the demands made by the union.

Boom Logistics chief executive Brenden Mitchell.

Boom Logistics chief executive Brenden Mitchell.

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“We don’t have a problem with our employees,” Mr Mitchell said. “They are good, solid people but everyone has to realise how competitive things are. It’s been very difficult the last few years. A lot of businesses have closed their doors. We’ve kept ours open and we are trying to grow again.”

Boom has 430 permanent workers and 760 casuals across Australia. The union says Boom is hiring “strike-breaking” labour but Mr Mitchell said it needed to maintain its contracts with customers.

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