Six weeks of industrial action, and the prospect of six weeks more, has finally brought vegetable giant McCain to the table with an improved deal on pay and conditions for workers at the McCain processing facilities in Ballarat.
AMWU Delegate Ross Kenna said McCain had ignored workers for months, but the long campaign was now paying off.
“We’ve now got an in-principal agreement which contains 15 of the 19 items from our original log of claims,” Ross said.
Workers took protected action in September, and McCain responded by flying in non-union workers from New Zealand as strike-breakers to keep the plant running.
Ross Kenna said workplace solidarity was the key to forcing McCain back to the negotiating table.
“We ran a strong ‘No’ campaign against the first offer the company put to us, which resulted in workers voting it down.
“In the same week we ran a ballot for a second six-seek period of industrial action, which members endorsed strongly.
“From this point on the dynamic changed, and management started listening to what we were saying.”
A dramatically improved proposal is now ready to be put to workers for a ballot in December.
The proposed agreement will include a 3 per cent pay rise from 1 July 2016, and pay rises of 2.5 per cent from 1 July 2017 and 2.5 per cent from 1 July 2018.
Other key elements of the revised McCain proposal include a contractors’ clause to ensure contractors are given the same pay and conditions as permanent employees, and existing employees to get priority for work. This is crucial to ensure that the workforce is not slowly undermined by contracted workers on lower pay and conditions.
In addition, revised proposal includes:
- A minimum casual engagement of six hours, with casuals to be offered work on basis of seniority;
- Agreed manning levels;
- Guaranteed access to annual leave over Christmas and New Year if applications are made by 1 September;
- Workers to get an annual vote on continuous 12-hour shifts; and
- Improvements to the Health and Safety clause.
“These workers have put in the hard yards and really stood strong,” said AMWU Food Organiser Angela McCarthy.
“They’ve shown that standing together and standing strong pays off.”