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2020 Yossi Berger Award presented to Infrabuild Steel Delegates

February 17, 2021

The outstanding health and safety efforts of AWU delegates in 2020 have been recognised and rewarded.

The Yossi Berger Award has been awarded to Gareth Pinn and Wayne Banks, delegates at Infrabuild Steel Mill in Sydney, who not only fought off challenges to reduce manning levels, but succeeded in bringing in new health and safety measures for AWU members.

The fight began when Infrabuild announced it was intending to reduce manning levels from a 24/7 four shift pattern to just 24/5 three shifts. This Monday to Friday reduced manning levels would have seen workers’ wages drop by around 20 percent.

Infrabuild then changed tack and announced it would be open to a 24/7 four shift operation if crew numbers dropped from 16 to 15.  Then without any consultation, the employer announced the change would take place on August 31st.

Infrabuild claimed COVID-19 was hitting its books and the changes were essential.

Wayne said: ‘We knew this was BS; the order books were full and they were just trying to use COVID to reduce costs.

“We were not only concerned about the loss of income, but also about the health and safety concerns of having a smaller crew, too.

“We knew that Infrabuild were not complying on all health and safety matters, so we decided to use this tactic in stopping them from making these cynical changes.”

The delegates came up with a whole host of non-compliance issues ranging from a heat policy to non-monitoring of dust.

Infrabuild has now postponed any changes and it’s business as usual at Infrabuild until the next EA negotiations start in around 18-months’ time.

“We’ll be ready to go again but our members have confidence in us and have seen what we have achieved. We could not have done this without the contribution and skills of Andrew Unwin as HSR.

“Infrabuild has also seen the knowledge we have and that we are not afraid to speak up and take them on.”

Daniel Walton, National Secretary of the AWU, said: “Across 2020, the AWU witnessed attempt after attempt by businesses to exploit COVID-19 and cut wages and conditions. Our delegates have fought back on every occasion and no more so than in the case of Infrabuild who more than met their match.

“Wayne and Gareth demonstrated just how important it is to have a unionised workforce, and why it’s so vital to have delegates who know the law and how to challenge any attempt to cut back on health and safety on site.”

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