A 16.3 percent pay increase offer by General Motors‘ subsidiary Holden today failed to settle a long-running workplace dispute with 5,500 factory workers in Adelaide and Melbourne, writes Mike Duffy.

Senior shop stewards were expected to vote to commend the offer to the company’s blue collar workers.

But despite a day of intense lobbying by Holden management on the Elizabeth car assembly line to ‘sell’ the package, the offer is understood to have been rejected.

The company immediately invited shop stewards and union officials back to Melbourne on Monday to resume talks.

The dispute caused workers to work off the job at the Adelaide Commodore car assembly plant, costing the company $A40 million in lost production.

It was the second stoppage at the plant within a month. The earlier strike by steering column components company workers halted car assembly at Holden as well as Down Under rivals Ford and Mitsubishi.

Senior shop stewards from Adelaide are to be flown to Holden’s head office at Port Melbourne on Monday to discuss a revised package from the car giant.

Two weeks ago shop stewards from SA were flown to Melbourne for enterprise bargaining talks.

On Tuesday this week stewards and union officials from Melbourne were flown to Adelaide when talks resumed after the three-day stoppage which included the cancellation of a Saturday overtime shift planned in an effort to make up production lost in the earlier steering components strike.

The latest round of talks is expected to take Holden’s bill for flights, meals and accommodation well past the $A100,000 mark.

The state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, John Camillo, said he could not comment on speculation that the shop stewards had turned down Holden’s 16.3 percent pay offer.

“Shop stewards did not vote on the package of conditions and wage increase proposals,” he said.

“The company asked us back to the negotiating table to discuss a revised package. I have no idea what that package contains – we’ll have to wait until Monday.”

Holden spokesman Amanda Webb said: “Talks will continue on Monday with a view to reaching agreement with workers on pay and conditions.”

Mr Camillo said a mass meeting of Mitsubishi Motors workers would vote September 17 on the company’s workplace package which includes a 14.75 percent pay offer over 33 months and flexible shift arrangements.

Workers at Ford Australia in Melbourne have already accepted a 15.25 percent offer over the three year life of their workplace agreement.

Toyota Australia will begin negotiations with its workforce next year.