General Motors’ Australian subsidiary Holden has offered its 5,000 blue collar workers a 16.3 per cent rise to settle its long-running enterprise workplace agreement dispute, writes Mike Duffy.

But the company has stressed the increase, spread over the next three years, is a ‘bottom line’ position. Workers will get an immediate 6 per cent increase, another 5 per cent next August and 4.5 per cent in 2003. This totals 15.5 per cent over the life of the agreement – or 16.3 per cent when the increases are compounded. The offer compares with the 15.25 per cent increase Ford Australia has agreed to pay its workers and 14.75 per cent rises for Mitsubishi‘s workforce.

Negotiations resumed on Tuesday morning after workers went on strike last Thursday and Friday at the Adelaide assembly plant, costing the car maker production – including an overtime shift on Saturday – worth $A40 million. The stoppage came only weeks after a steering column components company went on strike, stopping cars assembly lines at Holden, Ford and Mitsubishi.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union – lead negotiator for auto unions – will present senior shop stewards with a copy of the draft workplace agreement and pay offer at meetings tomorrow (Friday). If shop stewards commend the package, workers will be asked to vote to accept or reject the offer in two weeks.

Holden’s offer, which sparked last week’s strike, amounted to pay rises of 15.1 per cent (15.85 per cent when compounded). The AMWU wanted 20 per cent. Negotiators are understood to have pointed to the $A2 billion in re-investment the company had earmarked for the Holden car factory at Elizabeth, South Australia, and the V6 engine plant at Fishermans Bend, a suburb of Melbourne. Ford has settled its enterprise bargaining agreement but Mitsubishi workers are still to vote on the offer from the management.