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Skilled manufacturing workers at Pfizer’s pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Mulgrave have downed tools for 24 hours in protest of the company’s substandard wage offer.

From 10:30pm yesterday, more than 100 United Workers Union (UWU) members began protected strike action following the multi-national pharmaceutical company’s refusal to consider a reasonable pay rise, while demanding a reduction in conditions.

Pfizer has offered a three percent increase in the first year of the agreement, four percent in the second year and three percent in the final year. The company has offered cash sweeteners in addition to the yearly increases but these sweeteners are subject to a number of conditions, including workers having to pay the ‘bonus’ back if they leave, get sacked or are made redundant.

Members are pursuing a wage increase closer to current and projected inflation percentages and would consider Pfizer’s offer if the bonuses were rolled into annual increases.

In the meantime, Pfizer reported a record $25 billion profit last financial year, which can largely be attributed to the global acquisition of the Pfizer Cominarty COVID-19 vaccine.

United Workers Union National Secretary Tim Kennedy said it was unfair to ask workers to cop what essentially amounts to a pay cut while Pfizer was reaping huge profits.

“Workers at Pfizer have not made the decision to take strike action lightly – they know that without a day’s wage things will be tight next week,” Mr Kennedy said.

“Figures released last week showed inflation soaring well above seven percent in Melbourne. For the striking workers, the increased cost of rent, the interest rate hikes and the grocery bill, it’s really starting to bite.

“But workers know that if they don’t fight today that things will only be worse in the future if they accept the insulting offer that sits on the table.

“We know Pfizer can afford more than a miserly three percent pay increase, they have made that clear with the yearly sweeteners on offer.

“Pfizer bosses need to stop with the money-grubbing and game playing and return with a fair offer for the loyal workers, many of whom have worked at the plant for upwards of 20 years.”

In addition to the subpar wage offer, Pfizer was also seeking to drastically alter workers’ shift times and are also trying to remove the fortnightly rostered day off (RDO) for new starters and tying it to the wage offer.

The company also recently conducted a round of 10 redundancies, including two forced, even though there were 13 expressions of interest in voluntary redundancy.