Dairy workers at milk processing sites in Victoria will launch indefinite strikes from as early as Wednesday if their demands for a cost-of-living wage increase are not met in talks scheduled for Tuesday.
The looming strike action follows all 1400 workers endorsing further industrial action as they completed a 48-hour stoppage last week in the largest dairy strike in living memory.
The threat of indefinite stoppages on top of last week’s strike adds pressure to already-stretched dairy supply chains that has included milk rationing imposed in some supermarkets, and tens of thousands of litres of milk dumped.
“Dairy workers have shown they are serious about winning a pay rise that goes some way to address their soaring cost of living,” Tim Kennedy, the National Secretary of United Workers Union, said today.
“They are sick of the mushroom treatment from these multinationals after more than six months of talks.
“In meetings with the four major processors this week workers expect fair offers to their reasonable demands of a 5 per cent pay increase each year for three years, and they will not put up with being short-changed.
“Dairy workers want a fair share of the profits being made by these profitable companies after accepting low wages to back their companies during the pandemic.”
More than 300 dairy workers at Saputo Allansford near Warrnambool have lodged notices allowing them to take 24-hour stoppages on Wednesday and Thursday if a satisfactory outcome is not reached. Today (EDS: Monday, October 23) these workers intend to lodge further notices for a 24-hour stoppage on Friday, and intend to continue lodging further action on a daily basis until further notice.
A further 320 workers at Fonterra sites in Cobden, Stanhope and Darnum have endorsed taking six days of strike action – in rolling 24-hour stoppages – if there is no agreement in talks scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
The 560 workers at Saputo sites Cobram, Leongatha, Kiewa and Laverton have endorsed further industrial action if talks with the company fail on Tuesday. Workers at Lactalis Longwarry have endorsed further industrial action if talks this week do not resolve the issue. And the 200-plus workers at Peters Icecream in Mulgrave will meet today (EDS: Monday, October 23) to discuss next steps in the dispute.
“The unity shown by dairy workers has been extraordinary as they campaign for a cost-of-living wage rise and secure jobs in their communities,” Mr Kennedy said. “These workers and their jobs are the backbone of regional communities, and workers are taking this action so those jobs can continue into the future.”
Mulgrave dairy worker Dave Chapman said workers were committed to further action if no satisfactory outcome could be reached.
“For a long time we have been feeling left behind, neglected, not recognised by the company with what we have been offered,” he said.
“This is the most united we have ever been. The message should get through to management that we’re not being unreasonable and that we are united in what we are after.”