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The immediate threat of an indefinite dairy strike today has been averted after offers by one major dairy company are considered by workers across sites in regional Victoria.

But the prospect of strike action remains at another major dairy processor, Fonterra, after 300 workers lodged notices for strike action for six consecutive days from first shift on Saturday.

Fonterra delegates’ talks with the company are due to start on Thursday as workers call for a cost-of-living pay increase of 5 per cent a year for the next three years.

The Fonterra sites produce nationally-known brands including Western Star Butter, Woolworths milk and Perfect Italiano cheeses.

The Fonterra talks follow a 48-hour strike of 1400 workers across four major dairy companies last week.

“We want Fonterra to read the room and understand dairy workers are serious about winning a cost-of-living pay increase,” United Workers Union National Secretary Tim Kennedy said today.

“A company that hasn’t listened to its workers for six months should go into the talks prepared to meet their expectations or face the consequences.”

Robert Lovell, a dairy worker from the Fonterra Cobden site, said: “Fonterra members have shown strong unity and strong support for each other.

“We’ve put in notice of a six-day strike to show Fonterra we’re serious and hopefully they can come to our meeting with a reasonable offer.

“They talk up their profits, but when we ask for a share of that – Oh no, it can’t be done. The more money we get the more we spend in the local community.”

In separate meetings with United Workers Union delegates covering eight Saputo sites yesterday (EDS: Tuesday), the company agreed to significant improvements in both pay and conditions.

“Apart from Fonterra workers, the vast majority of dairy workers who took action last week now have a pay offer of 5 per cent in front of them for Year 1,” Mr Kennedy said.

“That gets them closer to the current inflation rate and is double the pay rise of 2.5 per cent dairy workers agreed to to help their companies out during the pandemic.

“Total dairy worker pay offers now ranging up to 14 per cent over three years (at the Peters Icecream site) give workers a real chance to at least start addressing the cost-of-living crisis.

“In the case of Saputo, the current three-year offers in front of workers ranging between 11 per cent and 12.5 per cent are way up on previous company offers as low as 8.25 per cent.

“The boosted pay offers combine with movement on key demands like five days of paid emergency services leave, as well as Saputo dropping attacks on workers’ current conditions.

“It’s fair to say this fresh approach has been welcomed by delegates. As always it will be the workers at the sites under those agreements that will make the final call as to whether the new offer is voted up.”

A planned strike at Saputo’s Allansford site today (EDS: Wednesday) has been cancelled as dairy workers across Saputo consider the offers.

Site-based details of offers made to Saputo workers:

For 560 workers at Saputo sites at Cobram (two sites), Leongatha, Kiewa and Laverton:

  • A pay offer of 5 per cent, 4 per cent and 3 per cent over three years.
  • Five days of paid emergency service leave to allow volunteers to combat natural disasters.
  • A recognition of 12-hour shift workers when calculating their personal leave entitlements, effectively lifting their personal leave entitlements to 120 hours.
  • A leave loading on long-service leave payouts up to 34 per cent.
  • A range of other demands made by workers accepted by the company.


For 320 workers at Saputo sites at Allansford (three sites on two agreements):

  • Workers to receive 4.25 per cent to 5 per cent in year 1, 3.75 per cent to 4 per cent in year 2, and 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent in year 3, depending on the agreement.
  • Five days of paid emergency service leave to allow volunteers to combat natural disasters.
  • An extra level in the agreement, adding $1.60 an hour to some workers’ wages.
  • Depending on the agreement, nightshift allowances of up to 30% and outdoor weather allowances of 5%.