Barossa Valley, South Australia— A total of 125 workers at Treasury Wines’ Barossa Valley operations, home of the renowned Penfolds Grange Hermitage brand, are on strike today.
The strike action is in response to a pressing need for a fair cost-of-living wage increase and as a stand against unfair labour practices that have recently come to light at the company.
The workers in the company’s separate winery and packaging facilities in the Barossa are responsible for key wine brands including Penfolds, Wolf Blass and the world-famous Grange Hermitage.
“Treasury Wines executives might think nothing of sampling a $800 bottle of Grange but workers are in the grips of a cost-of-living crisis and finding it hard to put food on the table,” United Workers Union national secretary Tim Kennedy said today.
The work includes putting grapes through the crusher, putting the juice through various processes and tanks, monitoring and moving it to storage, along every step of the winemaking process. When the wine is ready workers bottle it, label it, package it then put it on the trucks.
“Our members are keenly aware of the impending vintage and they want to work, but they feel they have been left with no option after failing to receive a reasonable offer,” Mr Kennedy said.
The 24-hour strike follows a turbulent period for Treasury Wine Estates, including an investor revolt at the last Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in October.
Nearly half of the company’s investors voted against the executive remuneration package, signalling deep dissatisfaction with the company’s direction and governance.
The CEO’s bonus being awarded is a particularly bitter pill for workers to swallow after they agreed to help the company by taking a wage freeze in the first year of the last agreement during COVID.
These employees, whose competency and dedication were previously unquestioned, were abruptly terminated following company-mandated medical examinations.
In light of these damning revelations, United Workers Union, has written to the company’s largest institutional investors highlighting the risks posed by poor industrial relations practices and poor adherence to anti-discrimination standards.
The letter, sent to investors HostPlus, AustralianSuper and HESTA, urges the investors to pressure Treasury Wines to address labour issues and potential anti-discrimination lawsuits that threaten investor interests and company stability.
It spotlights the huge disparity between executive remuneration and employee wage increases, calling for fair treatment and alignment with the company’s human rights commitments.
The union is calling on Treasury Wines’ investors and the public to recognise the plight of these workers and take a stand against the company’s unjust practices.
Quotes attributable to, Ben Fabio, former Treasury Wines worker:
“I was called in and told I was not “medically fit” to continue working at the site.
“I didn’t only lose my income, but my self-esteem took a massive dive and started doubting myself. I run half marathons and do long distance cycling. I have never had any issue doing the work.
“I was completely shattered. My wife had been made redundant and she was caring for a family member with mental health issues at the time, so it was really hard.
“I am so proud of my former colleagues for standing up and fighting to ensure this doesn’t ever happen again.”
Additional quotes attributable to Tim Kennedy, National Secretary of United Workers Union:
“Treasury Wines has repeatedly cut workers conditions whilst the wine industry is booming, and they deliver themselves bonuses despite missing their own targets.
“These workers worked during the pandemic with no wage increase – they’re not asking for a lot, just to keep up with the cost of living pressure they are currently experiencing.
“What we need is for ethical investors in this massive wine maker to step up and let the company know they need to treat workers with respect – which includes giving them a living wage.
“As Treasury Wines eyes profit growth, particularly with the potential reopening of trade with Chinese markets, it is crucial that these gains are equitably shared, starting with the workers who have supported the company through thick and thin.”