Maintenance workers have been picketing the Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) plant in Melbourne for the past seven weeks after they were sacked and offered their jobs back with a 65 per cent pay cut.
The 55 fitters and electricians were employed at the Abbotsford plant through a contractor. CUB sacked them and offered workers individual contracts on a non-union EBA with another contractor, Programmed, that barely complies with the award.
Scabs are being transported in and out of the brewery in buses with blacked out windows, but production has declined 35 per cent since the sackings. The scab workers are unable to fix the machines.
The union that covers the fitters, the AMWU, says that the company stockpiled weeks of beer supply in preparation for the sackings.
One member said, “We wanted them to put more people on, they wouldn’t, they worked us 12 hours and even 16 hour shifts but now they’ve left us with nothing, sacked with no real notice.”
Troy Gray, State Secretary of the ETU, which covers the electricians, told The Age, “This will be a war of attrition. Those that can endure will win this dispute, and we will win it.”
But CUB is Australia’s second largest beer supplier. SABMiller, CUB’s parent company, made $4.4 billion in operating profit in 2015.
The company has the money to win a war of attrition. Five workers have already gone back to work accepting the cut in wages and conditions. The longer the dispute continues the more difficult it will be to keep workers united in the protest.
But the plant also employs several hundred other workers and is highly unionised. There would be huge support if they all stopped work in solidarity with the sacked ETU and AMWU members. This could stop anything going in or out of the brewery. The unions have refused to do this because it would breach industrial laws and risk fines. But the law has to be defied in order to win.
CUB will only cave when its profits are seriously threatened. That will take united action by the entire brewery workforce.
By Lachlan Marshall
You can show solidarity by visiting the picket on Southampton Crescent, Abbotsford or making a collection at work.