The largest dairy strike in living memory has ended after 1400 dairy workers won secure, sustainable jobs and a cost-of-living pay increase, helping to keep the dairy industry as the lifeblood of regional communities.
The two-day strikes last week at 13 sites disrupted supplies of dairy goods, limits were imposed on milk in some supermarkets and farmers reported hundreds of thousands of litres of milk tipped down the drain.
A six-day strike of 300 dairy workers from Saturday was avoided yesterday (EDS: Thursday) when major processor Fonterra reached an in-principle deal with United Workers Union delegates after protracted talks.
The vast bulk of the 1400 dairy workers won a 5 per cent pay rise in the first year, going some way to address the cost-of-living crisis as workers face persistent inflation above 5 per cent and the prospect of yet another mortgage rate rise.
These workers’ first-year pay rise doubles the 2.5 per cent dairy workers received as they helped their companies out during the pandemic.
“These are working people in regional areas who have shown great courage in standing up to large multinational dairy companies,” United Workers Union National Secretary Tim Kennedy said today.
“They were fighting not just for themselves, but for secure jobs in regional communities where every dollar they spend goes back into those communities.
“Their fight also gave a national platform in the battle for profitable companies to pay a fair share of their profits to help workers address the cost-of-living crisis.
“Dairy worker pay rises of up to 14 per cent over three years dwarf previous company offers as low as 8.25 per cent before workers went on strike.
“Also importantly, workers have won measures that are important to them and their communities.
“These measures include five days of paid emergency services leave at both Saputo and Fonterra, allowing volunteers to fight natural disasters occurring in their communities.”
In the case of Fonterra’s talks yesterday, delegates will be putting to dairy workers an offer of 5 per cent in the first year, 4 per cent in the second year and 3 per cent in the third year, up from 10.5 per cent across three years before the strike.
The offer includes improved personal leave and shift allowances.
Mr Kennedy said he hoped the secure regional jobs won by dairy workers would support a dairy industry that is in crisis, with milk production crashing from 11 billion litres in 2019 to 8 billion litres now.
“The strike action has shown dairy workers are prepared to stand up and fight for their place in the dairy industry, and the importance of the dairy industry in their local communities,” Mr Kennedy said.
“We have been working on longer-term planning about how every player – the dairy farmers, the processors, the community and the workers – can be part of a sustainable dairy industry and make sure the dairy industry remains the heartbeat of regional communities.
“We think part of the answer is making sure multinational companies are listening to their regional communities, and keeping their connections to the local farming industry.
“To do that, we also think it’s important to ensure the price of milk remains fair, and that means challenging the power of the big supermarket duopoly to set low prices when milk supply is high.
“We are also calling on the Federal and State Governments to include our voice at the table when major issues relating to the dairy industry are considered.”
Broadcast quality video of strike sites available here:
Other video and pictures from strike sites available here:
Day 1 (Sites as named)
Day 2 (All at Allansford)
Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]