More than 50 workers at hospital and health care supplier Onelink in western Sydney have won higher pay and improved redundancy payments after five days of strike action over two weeks at the end of May.
They will get a 7 per cent pay rise this year but not upfront. The increase is 4 per cent now then 3 per cent in another six months, followed by 3 per cent increases a year for the next three years.
This is an improvement on the company’s earlier offer of only 4 per cent this year, but it is short of their demand over three years of 7 per cent, 5 per cent and 3 per cent. It will still leave workers well behind inflation as their last pay rise was 16 months ago. Workers also won increased redundancy pay, but are still behind that at other warehouses owned by the same company.
The workers, members of the United Workers Union, package and distribute goods sent to hospitals including gloves, toilet paper and masks under a contract with NSW Health.
Onelink is a subsidiary of the EBOS Group, which owns a number of healthcare wholesale companies as well as pharmacy chains including Terry White pharmacies.
CEO John Cullity was paid $1.4 million and the total company profit increased almost 10 per cent to $202 million last year.
During the pandemic Onelink was an essential supplier for hospitals. Another worker said, “It was crazy through COVID, long hours, a lot of the workers putting themselves at risk when other people got to stay home.”
The company used casuals and agency workers to continue operating the warehouse during the strike. But according to workers at Onelink “they can’t do the work without us” since the agency workers made continual mistakes putting together packages.
Hard pickets that stopped scab workers entering the workplace completely could have forced the company to hand over more. This would mean defying court orders and the anti-strike laws.
But the gains show that strike action can hit the bosses hard and win higher pay. This is a lesson for workers everywhere in the face of the cost of living crisis.
By Jayden Awarau