ETU members working at Parmalat in Victoria have won their battle with the company after spending two months locked out.
ETU Victoria members have won their battle against multi-national dairy giant Parmalat after spending more than two months locked out of their workplace.
We held firm and made the company sit down and negotiate a fair deal that kept wages good and jobs secure, despite the company ratcheting up the pressure on us by trying to starve us out.
The agreement that has been endorsed by ETU members protects jobs from being undercut by contractors, contains wage increases over the life of the agreement, and make sure production workers are direct employees of the company.
Newly elected ACTU secretary Sally McManus was on hand to speak to the media and congratulate members and supporters as the agreement was announced.
The lockout was an escalation of the hardball tactics that the foreign-owned multinational company had employed to take money out of the pockets of the people who worked at the factory over the past months.
Parmalat have played games with the people who work for them before. But this lockout represents a dramatic escalation in their tactics.
Before the lockout, people working at Parmalat were threatened with the loss of their jobs and the closure of the plant if they refused to take a massive pay cut.
And during the negotiations, Parmalat applied to have their existing agreement terminated – a move that would see money taken from the people working at the plant and their families as they were pushed back onto the minimum allowed
under the law.
Now, they’ve locked the gates and thrown the people who make the place run out. Even some who aren’t involved in the dispute have been placed on forced leave.
The ETU members and others who work at Echuca wouldn't be intimated by the company’s bullying tactics.
Together, the members decided to hold firm and not give in to the company’s demands that they work for sub-standard wages so company owners can pocket an unfair share of what the plant makes.
We knew that Parmalat could back down if we didn't give in, because it has happened before.
Last year Parmalat managers tried to use the same disgraceful tactic on people working at their Longwarry Food Park in Victoria for 11 days during bargaining. But in the end they had to return to the table and negotiate properly.
Agreement terminaton off the table
As part of their hardball bargaining tactics, Parmalat had threatened to have the existing agreement terminated and try to force us back onto the bare minimum conditions. But that's no longer an option, as the negotiations put a stop to the company's attempt to terminate the agreement.
ETU national secretary Allen Hicks congratulated the ETU members at the plant for standing firm and showing working people around the country that it is possible to stand up to multi-national corporations and win.
"If you don't fight, you lose," Hicks said. "And today the working people at Parmalat Echuca have shown that when you do fight, you can win."
"You copped two months without a paycheque to stand up for your rights and conditions, and to make sure your jobs were secure. In the process you've helped every working Australian who's in a similar position, because companies will now think twice before trying these kind of underhanded lockouts and terminations."
ETU Victoria organiser Damian King said the mood among members at Echuca was jubilant.
"The Parmalat Echuca members were absolutely stoked this morning to have defeated Parmalat's aggressive attack on their long-standing employment conditions."