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Today workers at Kapooka Army base will begin strike action after negotiations have failed to secure fair conditions and wages after two years of bargaining.

The workers – which are employed by defence subcontractor Downer – undertake various roles at the base, such as firefighting, operating the firing range, groundskeeping and cleaning. Most of these workers are on minimum wage.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Downer’s facilities arm Spotless, still recorded $62.5 million in revenue according to the company’s half-year results released in February.

In those results the company indicated it was the growth in its defence business that offset other losses across the organisation.

United Workers Union Organiser Fletcher Beverley said it was completely unreasonable that such a profitable company should pay minimum wage to workers who have kept Australia’s defence bases operating during such a challenging time.

“Despite working on these highly-sensitive and critical defence sites, most workers are paid at the award, which can be as low as $21.71 in some cases,” Beverley said.

“Other workers who are only slightly above the award by a matter of cents, have gone two years without a pay rise.

“Downer has refused to listen to the workers on multiple occasions, 80 percent of the workforce had already voted down a previous offer of a lousy 22 cent-per-hour wage increase.

“Faced with no other options, the workers will begin taking industrial action until the extremely profitable company returns to the table with an acceptable offer.”

The strike action began at 7:30am today, with further industrial action planned until a suitable agreement has been reached.