Victoria, Australia — Dairy workers across Victoria are preparing for potential industrial action if major dairy companies don’t come to the table with fair wage offers.
Off the back of strong Protected Action Ballot results in late September, delegates from 12 sites across three major companies — Saputo, Fonterra, and Peters — have voted to meet next week with around 1,400 members to endorse industrial action.
This proposed action is in direct response to the failure of some of the world’s largest dairy companies to offer fair wage increases and improve working conditions in the face of rising cost of living.
“Workers don’t make this decision lightly,” says Tim Kennedy, National Secretary of the United Workers Union.
“Dairy workers have been grinding day in and day out, especially during the pandemic, where some sites agreed to accept wage offers as low as 1.5% as a favour to the company. Now, as the cost of living soars, these workers are saying enough is enough.
“They’re not even asking for a wage increase that matches inflation, just 5% or 6% that gets them a little closer to being able to keep up with skyrocketing costs.”
Workers are also asking for personal leave that recognises they work 12-hour shifts and community service leave so that regional workers can help fight the fires and floods that are becoming more regular during the climate emergency facing Australia.
Over the last year, the price of milk has risen dramatically, providing an increase to farmers’ income that the union has welcomed, as well as boosting processors’ profits. However, the workers who actually process the milk have not been given any share of the profits.
David Clement, a worker at Saputo’s Allansford factory, said that United Workers Union members were strong supporters of farmers and wanted the best for the industry and their community.
”We want to ensure that dairy farmers continue to have a strong future in Australia. Our relationship is symbiotic, we need them, and we support them.”
“We are fighting not only for ourselves but for our communities that have backed these companies for years.”
A United Workers Union survey involving over 1,300 dairy workers revealed only 25% would remain in their community if they lost their jobs at the dairy plant.
“This is more than a tug-of-war over wages; it’s a fight for the future of our regional communities. Every dollar these workers earn goes right back into the local economy,” said Tim Kennedy.
DAIRY SITES PREPARING FOR POTENTIAL INDUSTRIAL ACTION:
|Agreement||Sites||Number of workers.||Retail Products Produced||Yes% of on PAB|
|Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Everyday Cheese (WCB EDC) & National Union of Workers Enterprise Agreement 2017||Allansford (3 sites on one block)||300||Cheer, Cracker Barrel & Great Ocean Road cheeses.||100%|
|Saputo Dairy Australia (Allansford) and United Workers Union EA 2020||Sungold Milk||97%|
|Saputo Dairy Australia Pty Ltd (Victorian Sites) National Union of Workers Enterprise Agreement 2018||Cobram (2 sites)||285||All Coles cheese products, Woolworths parmesan,
Cheer & Devondale Cheese products.
|Leongatha||100||Devondale Long Life milk,
Devondale butter &
Liddells lactose free milk.
|Kiewa||107||YoPRO yoghurt & Danone Cream cheese.|
|Australasian Food Group (Trading as Peter’s Ice Cream) & United Workers Union Enterprise Agreement 2020||Peters Mulgrave||205||Peters Ice creams.||95%|
|Fonterra (Cobden, Darnum, Stanhope) & United Workers Union Collective Agreement 2020||Cobden||160||“Western Star” butter,
Woolworths home brand milk & cream.
|Stanhope||100||“Perfect Italiano” cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, Parmesan & ricotta).|
UWU Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]