Dairy workers at Bega’s Bentley site will begin striking following a below-inflation pay offer from the multi-million-dollar eastern states company.
United Workers Union (UWU) members will walk off the shift at 7:00am today as part of protected industrial action and intend to continue striking until Bega returned to the bargaining table with an offer which would bring workers in-line with their colleagues at Bega’s east coast dairies.
Currently Bentley workers are the lowest paid Bega workers in Australia and the company has offered a pay rise of 2.75 percent a year.
Bega, which manufactures Pura, Masters and Dare milk products at the Bentley site, is one of Australia’s biggest and most popular food manufacturers. The company’s latest financial results showed a profit of $72 million dollars – more than double the profit of the previous financial year.
Meanwhile the company’s chief executive Paul van Heerwaarden has a $2 million-a-year package.
UWU Allied coordinator Louise Dillon said there was a need for a rebalance between the profits of corporations and the take-home pay of WA workers.
“Here we have a bunch of workers who showed up during the height of the pandemic and when our supply chains were under immense pressure to make sure the supermarket shelves were still stocked with milk,” Ms Dillon said.
“You can’t just keep trading on the good faith of workers when recording huge profits and paying out dividends to shareholders. At some point you have to actually respect and recognise what these essential workers do.
“The majority of the workers taking action and fighting for a better deal at Bega have worked at the dairy for upwards of 20 years, they’re seeking a modest pay rise and better shift allocation but to be honest, they deserve much more.”
In addition to the wage claim, union members are seeking better path to permanency and for direct-hire casuals to be prioritised for shift over labour hire workers.
UWU delegate and 26-year delegate Russel Rowland said he wanted Bega “to stop insulting to stop insulting us and give us a fair wage.”
“We are always pushed to raise production and we all put in extra work, then when it comes to negotiations we are told our wages are going backwards. Everyone is sick and tired,” he said.
“There was so much pressure on us to come in over the course of the pandemic. It was extremely stressful because if anyone got sick, we would be behind schedule and the company was pushing production. We feel like we have sacrificed so much during that time, so we were very angry when they [originally] offered 1.5 percent when cost of living is up over 7 percent.
“We are striking so that young workers coming up can have a fair go. There is all this talk about encouraging young people into the industry, well workers need to be able to survive and build a future too.
“We’ve had casuals for four years and when they ask for permanent, they get rid of them.
“Some don’t talk about it, but we can see how workers are struggling and getting worried about their financial situation. Some of us are having to make real sacrifices to our living standards just to get by. If we accepted less than inflation some of us would lose our homes, so we are scared.”
|Doorstop at worker strike and rally
|Bega Dairy and Drinks, 69 Sevenoaks St, Bentley WA 6102
|Monday 5 September at 11:00am
|UWU Allied coordinator Louise Dillon and Bega Workers
|Senior Media Officer Ash Telford – 0448 989 967
UWU Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]