Victoria’s dairy industry faces massive disruptions as 1,400 dairy processing workers prepare for a 48-hour strike demanding fair cost-of-living wage increases and improved working conditions. The looming industrial action is set to begin on Wednesday, targeting dairy giants Saputo, Fonterra, Peters and Lactalis.
“Workers don’t make this decision lightly,” said Tim Kennedy, National Secretary of the United Workers Union.
Over the past week, union mass meetings in towns like Warrnambool and Cobram across regions like Southwest Victoria, Mallee, Hume, and Gippsland have seen 1,400 members overwhelmingly voting to strike.
The decision for industrial action followed the refusal of some of the world’s largest dairy companies to offer fair wages and improve working conditions amid rising living costs.
“Dairy workers have been dedicated, especially during the pandemic, with some even agreeing to wage offers as low as 1.5% to support their companies. But with the soaring cost-of-living, they believe it’s time for change,” Mr Kennedy said, expressing the workers’ sentiments.
“They’re not even asking for a wage increase that matches inflation, just 5% or so that gets them a little closer to being able to keep up with skyrocketing costs.”
Workers are also seeking:
- Personal leave accommodating their 12-hour shift pattern.
- Community service leave for aiding in natural disasters.
- Community consultation clauses ensuring corporate accountability to local communities.
While milk prices have surged, benefiting farmers and boosting processor profits, the workers processing the milk have yet to see their share. Notably, New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra grew their profits by 170% in the 2023 financial year.
Derek Dent, a multi-generational dairy worker at Saputo’s Leongatha factory, recognises the bond between dairy workers and farmers. “We’re in this together; dairy farmers’ success is our success,” he said. “We need them, and we’ve got their backs,” Dent added, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between dairy workers and farmers.
“This isn’t just our fight; it’s for every community that’s backed these dairy giants for decades.
“My father worked at the same factory I work at for 15 years and I have worked there for 20 years so I understand just how important is that these good, secure dairy jobs are available in the future for our children and our community.”
Mr Kennedy concurred, stating, “This is more than a wage tug-of-war; it’s about safeguarding the heartbeat of our regional communities.”
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%|
|Longwarry Food Park and United Workers Union Enterprise Bargaining Agreement 2020-2023||Lactalis Longwarry||22||McDonalds and Hungry Jacks Soft Serve, Président Butter||100%|
|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]