Regional New South Wales and Victorian food workers resolve to take strike action in their fight for a life-changing new agreement. 330 workers at SunRice, CopRice and Australian Grain Storage (AGS) will stop work on 1 and 2 February to keep conditions allowing them to support their communities.
Quotes attributable to Tom Czech, United Workers Union Food and Beverage Lead:
“United Workers Union members have been bargaining at the table for eight months in good faith but will not stand for an agreement that rips away conditions.
“These essential food workers are publicly calling on the company to provide a fair wage increase and to back off their agenda to cut conditions. Workers are deeply concerned to see SunRice attempt to remove important conditions. This included removing leave from the agreement for volunteer firefighters and domestic violence victims, as well as time to donate blood.
“Here we have a heartless corporation neglecting their workers and their communities by stripping workers of guaranteed time to contribute and play these vital roles – essentially workers are being asked to fund their own pay rise with the company’s proposed cuts to conditions that will have ramifications through the regions.
“We know we only have strong communities when we have secure fair paid jobs. Casual workers working shift work at SunRice are, in some circumstances, paid less than they would earn if they were engaged under the modern award. This is disgusting and members across SunRice are calling for the company to pay workers at least the wages they would receive under the award.
“Through the pandemic, workers have been expected to do countless overtime to cover for staffing shortages and to process bumper harvests. As essential workers, they have kept supermarket shelves stocked with staple goods for communities around the country. The company’s response is an insult, driven by corporate greed.”
Workers will stop work in the following locations:
- SunRice, CopRice and AGS in Leeton, New South Wales.
- SunRice and AGS in Deniliquin, New South Wales.
- CopRice in Coleambally, New South Wales.
- CopRice in Cobden, Victoria.
- CopRice in Tongala, Victoria.
- CopRice in Wangaratta, Victoria.
Current impacts of COVID and expected supply chain disruption:
- Staff shortages, at times down 15 per cent of staff across all sites.
- Overtime expectations for all workers.
- An expectation the domestic market may experience supply issues for products.
- SunRice are having bumper seasons, with bumper profits, but offering workers a far worse deal.
- Last agreement rollover: 47k tonnes of rice produced that year and the company didn’t take any conditions away.
- Current bargaining: 620k tonnes of rice in 2021. This is thirteen times the harvest and well above average and the company’s offer takes conditions away with the same wage increase.
- The Company is funnelling profits away from communities and workers by buying other businesses instead of giving back to workers.
- Workers are seeking a decent pay increase per year over a four year agreement, improving their job security and ensuring casuals are looked after, without trading away their current conditions.
During the industrial action workers will adhere to the COVID Safe Plan in place at the sites.
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