Both W.E. Smith management and the AMWU say progress is being made.
Both W.E. Smith management and the AMWU say progress is being made. Bruce Thomas/Coffs Coast Advocate

Progress as W.E. Smith opens books to union

W.E. Smith has opened its financial books to the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union as both parties say progress is being made towards securing the company's future.

Management of the Boambee-based company today continued talks with the AMWU, providing a detailed briefing setting out the company's financial and market position.

In a statement, W.E. Smith's management said the union indicated it would now work with the company to explore solutions, rather than taking court action to recover four weeks' wages owed to around 80 employees.

The statement said specific proposals would be put to workers in the coming days.

AMWU NSW Secretary Tim Ayres said it was a constructive meeting.

"We remain optimistic about reaching an outcome and will continue to engage with both management and workers on-site to reach an agreement," he said.

The meeting followed a media conference at the factory where Mr Ayres responded to concerns by the company that union action had put lucrative contracts at risk.

"It's not in anyone's interest that these matters are swept under the carpet," Mr Ayres said.

"It's very important there is public scrutiny and public support for the workers that are involved in this position."

His comments were refuted by W.E. Smith's management who explained the exposure had played a part in the company this week losing a $4million contract.

"The only way we can continue to function is that we have clients on board," operations manager Harlan Cooper said.

"The company is being frank, open and honest and we're doing our best to show we're working to save jobs and the future we have in Coffs Harbour," sales vice-president Gregory Mann added.

The company's management said the outcome of today's meeting was a positive move forward.

"The company looks forward to engaging with the union and reaching an agreement that will maintain the company's capability, secure entitlements for employees and protect the maximum number of jobs," the statement said.

"While there is still a long way to go, the company is quietly optimistic that an agreement will be reached in the coming weeks."