A Socialist Party member involved in an industrial dispute in regional Victoria with the diary giant, Fonterra, talks to us today.
“50-60 Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) maintenance workers at the New Zealand-owned Fonterra (a large dairy corporation, the 4th biggest in the world) are in dispute with the company at four Victorian sites – Cobden, Colac, Stanhope and Darnum.
“The dispute concerns the latest enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA). Workers and their two unions are seeking parity with a 5th Fonterra site (in Warrnambool) which the company purchased from Nestle about 3 years ago. ETU members there get $180 more a week than us.
“The EBA at Warrnambool was done first, last year and the workers got a 4% pay rise with no trade offs – this is 4% straight. Now it’s our turn and they initially offered us 2.5% pay rise and an extra 1% to be had if there were no lost time due to injuries!
“The unions and workers said get fucked. We want parity with Warrnambool. Fonterra made $77 million profit last year in Australia, despite the worst drought in recorded history.
“Fonterra has global sales of US$6.5 billion. If parity was paid it would only increase costs to Fonterra of $200,000 – 0.25% of last years Australia profit for Fonterra.
“Currently we have protected action against Fonterra, and we are not answering phones or computers, that is to say we are not on call anymore.
“On Thursday, 13th December we are heading to Melbourne to protest at Fonterra’s head office in Mount Waverley.
“Maintainance workers are understaffed and underpaid yet last year won ‘Excellence in Maintainance Awards’ for all of Australia. Yet this is how the company treats us now.
“Two of the four sites in dispute won national awards and there are only six such awards in Australia. Holden and Ford with huge budgets to win these awards were beaten by us.
“Fonterra is trying to put us on piece work. They have retreated from the ‘1% if no lost time’ to 1% for achievable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). They want us to do jobs in under three days even though parts can take three weeks to be delivered!
“The EBA for the National Union of Workers (NUW) is coming up. That union has members at Fonterra. Therefore Fonterra want to destroy us today to destroy the NUW tomorrow. They don’t want us to tell NUW about our claims.
“Fonterra come to our site and brag about how much money they make. They are so greedy. Then they say they have no money for us.
“The mood is getting very militant on our site. Workers see Fonterra making heaps of money and they are not rewarding the workers for their award winning service. They are ripping us off. They boast about running the operation on a shoe string budget constantly taking money off shore.
“We will win this dispute.”
By Socialist Party reporters