Dairy strike averted

Dairy workers on strike at the Saputo site in Cobram. Photo: Contributed

ONE of the largest dairy industrial actions in living memory ended last week, averting a further six-day strike after 1400 dairy workers came to a new agreement with industry giants

The two-day strikes at 13 sites a fortnight ago disrupted supplies of dairy goods, limits were imposed on milk in some supermarkets and farmers reported hundreds of thousands of litres of milk tipped down the drain.

A six-day strike of 300 dairy workers from last Saturday was avoided when major processor Fonterra reached an in-principle deal with United Workers Union delegates after protracted talks.

The vast bulk of the 1400 dairy workers won a five per cent pay rise in the first year, going some way to address the cost-of-living crisis as workers face persistent inflation above five per cent and the prospect of yet another mortgage rate rise.

These workers’ first-year pay rise doubles the 2.5 per cent dairy workers received as they helped their companies out during the pandemic.

“These are working people in regional areas who have shown great courage in standing up to large multinational dairy companies,” United Workers Union National Secretary Tim Kennedy said.

“They were fighting not just for themselves, but for secure jobs in regional communities where every dollar they spend goes back into those communities.

“Their fight also gave a national platform in the battle for profitable companies to pay a fair share of their profits to help workers address the cost-of-living crisis.

“Dairy worker pay rises of up to 14 per cent over three years dwarf previous company offers as low as 8.25 per cent before workers went on strike.

“Also importantly, workers have won measures that are important to them and their communities.

“These measures include five days of paid emergency services leave at both Saputo and Fonterra, allowing volunteers to fight natural disasters occurring in their communities.”

In the case of Fonterra’s talks, delegates will be putting to dairy workers an offer of five per cent in the first year, four per cent in the second year and three per cent in the third year, up from 10.5 per cent across three years before the strike. The offer includes improved personal leave and shift allowances.

“Fonterra Australia is pleased that an in-principle agreement has been reached and an offer will be presented to our production workers for their decision,” Fonterra Australia Supply Chain and Operations Director, Rob Howell said .

“This offer is largely in line with what was previously on the table, following months of negotiations with the union. We reiterate that an agreement could have been reached without the union taking industrial action, which unfortunately reduced the pay packets of striking union members”.