MAINTENANCE staff at six Murray Goulburn sites across Victoria, including Maffra, will on Friday take industrial action for the third time in six weeks.
Around 110 staff will stop work for 24 hours because of a breakdown in negotiations for a new enterprise bargaining agreement.
Electrical Trades Union organiser Peter Mooney said the workers are being forced to strike to bring management back to the negotiation table.
“Murray Goulburn management are refusing to negotiate on outstanding claims about employing apprentices and reducing future entitlements to below industry standards for skilled trades workers,” he said.
“We are advised by Murray Goulburn workers that they are satisfied with the pay and conditions reached in negotiations so far. But they are prepared to lose a day’s pay, on principle, to support future apprentices and consistent standards for trade occupations in the future.”
Mr Mooney said Murray Goulburn managing director Gary Helou’s pay rise last year of $1,357,519 alone would be sufficient to employ 50 trade apprentices for a year.
“As a farmer-owned co-operative, you have to question whether management is acting in the interest of its owners,” he said.
“It is in Murray Goulburn’s interest to have a sustainable supply of skilled trades to operate and maintain their facilities.”
Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union organiser Mark Solly said members would not be taking this action if they didn’t think their claims were not only reasonable, but good for the co-operative.
“Murray Goulburn workers are also angered by management evading reaching agreement, for the apparent purpose of stalling paying agreed wage rise,” he said.
“Management have incited this action by shutting down negotiations on issues they know their employees feel strongly about, and know the cost of which would be negligible.
“Management are holding out on reaching agreement on issues which the unions believe would cost less than half of last year’s $2.5 million pay increases for four key management.”
A Murray Goulburn spokesperson said the company was open to continuing negotiations over the EBA.
“As previously stated, Devondale Murray Goulburn has tabled an offer which we believe represents a fair outcome for our employees — one which delivers wage increases above inflation, protects current entitlements and supports the co-operative to become more sustainable in the future,” the spokesperson said.
“At this stage, Devondale Murray Goulburn’s key priority is to protect the business and the interests of its farmers from the impact of the ongoing industrial action from the ET U and AM WU.
“Devondale Murray Goulburn remains open to further discussions with the unions to finalise the agreement.”