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The employer of Canberra’s garbage truck drivers claims they are among the highest paid in the country, as a six-month wage dispute between the parties remains deadlocked. Drivers walked off the job for a third week running on Monday, extending strike action to impact most of Canberra as they call for a 4 per cent pay rise each year for the next three years. But employer Suez claims the ACT workers, on a base hourly rate of $37.28, are among the best paid in the country, in some cases earning up to $10 per hour more than their counterparts in other states. Suez has counter-offered a pay rise of 2 per cent in 2021, 3 per cent in 2022 and 3 per cent in 2023. “In fairness to the 2400 people outside Canberra in our business, it would be exceptionally unfair and unreasonable they would have to pay the price of trying to get our business through this period, for us to then award an increase that is completely out of step,” Suez ACT general manager Paul Haslam said. “We’ve got salaried staff that have not received any sort of increase because of the global economic situation.” Mr Haslam said drivers were also given a 3.4 per cent pay rise in April. He said the company had made five offers since discussions started in May, initially calling for wage increases to be in step with the CPI. Transport Workers’ Union ACT branch secretary Klaus Pinkas said workers “resoundingly voted down” the company’s latest offer on Thursday as it hadn’t been revised since October. He said it was likely more industrial action would be taken pending the result of Monday’s discussion. Mr Haslam said the company had gone “as far as we can” but would enter another meeting with the TWU on Monday with “options to discuss”. “[The workers] are entitled to do what they’ve done over the past six months but it’s time that this thing was resolved,” he said. Mr Pinkas argued “what happened elsewhere wasn’t a relevant factor” and that the multi-national company received the same revenue from the ACT government regardless of economic fallout from the pandemic. “The money the company makes from the ACT ratepayers on this is fixed,” he said. He said increasing local workers’ wages would retain that money in the Canberra community. Ms Haslam said coronavirus had a “very real” impact on the company’s bottom line nationwide and a further increase would be “out of step” across the business. Ms Pinkas would not be drawn on what offer workers would walk into Monday’s meeting willing to accept, but said any offer made by Suez would be considered. Strike action left bins on the kerb in more than 60 suburbs across Canberra this week. Inner north and south residents were told they may be impacted by the strike on Friday. It was not known that afternoon how many households had missed out on rubbish collection, but many had. A temporary drop-off site on Phillip Avenue, near the old Ainslie Transfer Station, will be open from Saturday.





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