Striking Baiada workers hold the line at Laverton despite police violence

Striking poultry workers have pushed back police attacks on their picket at the Baiada factory in Laverton, Victoria. Read more for the latest news on the struggle and what you can do to get involved.

Police violence, worker hurt, but scabs kept out
Late on the evening of Friday November 11, the picket of the main gate of the Baiada chicken factory was brutally attacked by the Victorian Police. The police attempted to break the picket and bring in two vans of scab labor by violently trampling and beating blockading workers and supporters. Police punched one of the poultry workers in the face and inflicted serious injuries, he was taken to hospital.

But the police were pushed back, a crucial victory for the poultry workers and their struggle. Some people Baiada had recruited to scab refused to cross the picket line and signed up to join the National Union of Workers (NUW). It is likely that Baiada will call on the police again to attempt to get scabs into the factory because they are more concerned for their profits than with workers’ pay, conditions or rights.

Around 150 workers and supporters chanted “No more $10, no more cash in hand”, “No more bullying” and “No racism”. Some migrant workers who spoke little English started up a chant that echoed through the crowd “We Want Fair”.

Today Adelaide Baiada workers refused to unload chickens in solidarity with the Melbourne strikers. This is a fantastic step forward. Baiada can be beaten maintaining the Laverton picket line, by spreading the fight to other Baiada factories and getting solidarity from other workers and unions to increase the pressure on Baiada management.

Friday was the second time Baiada bosses had tried to use force to break the picket. On Wednesday evening, workers and supporters stopped trucks from getting in, chanting into the early hours of the morning, “Nothing in, nothing out”. A security guard attempted to drive his car through the picket line, severely injuring a worker’s arm. Union organisers later revealed that Baiada management told him to ram the workers and that the company would pay for any damage to his car.

Baiada workers fighting for pay, job security and respect
Baiada poultry workers at Laverton, members of the National Union of Workers (NUW), began an indefinite strike on Wednesday 9 November for better conditions, a 5 per cent pay rise a year for the next three years, better health and safety conditions and job security. Despite threats and intimidation by the Baiada management, the poultry workers have established a 24 hour picket line. Around 292 of the 430 Baiada workers, are on strike; a majority of them from migrant backgrounds.

The workforce is heavily casualised, with many on temporary contracts. This undermines their ability to assert their rights. Of the entire workforce 40 per cent of the workers are paid either cash in-hand as contractors, or employed as casuals from labour hire firms. Some Baiada workers have said some contract workers are paid $10-11 an hour, well below the minimum wage. Workers are also not being paid for working overtime.

Baiada is massively profitable
The Baiada family’s was wealth estimated at $495 million by BRW in June 2011. The company enjoys 35 per cent of the poultry market and had revenue in 2009-2010 totalling $1,195 million. The company also recently took over its major competitor, Bartter.

Conditions at the factory are shocking. Baiada Poultry has subjected workers to unsafe and dangerous working conditions. Last year Sarel Singh, who was only 34, was decapitated whilst cleaning a fast-moving poultry machine. Not only did workers have to clean up Sarel’s remains, they were forced to work overtime in order to make up for the time lost in cleaning. The Worksafe Victoria report confirmed that the machine was operating at top speed, of 183 birds a minute, and Baiada Poultry had contravened the Health and Safety Occupation Act.

The Baiada workers are currently bargaining for a new agreement. The previous agreement expired on July 31 2011. The company is refusing to convert casual workers to permanent employment.

Courts Uphold Baiada Bullying Tactics
On Friday the Supreme Court put an injunction on the NUW, banning union officials from participating in the picket of the Baiada factory. The injunction was the green light for the police violence on Friday night. But the Supreme Court injunction will not stop Baiada workers and other union and community supporters holding the line at Laverton.

What you can do:
Baiada workers need support from unions and community.

Join the 24 hour picket line 17 Pipe Rd Laverton North – bring a delegation from your workplace to show your support

Pass a resolution at your union branch meeting supporting the striking NUW workers. Send to NUW VIC – 833 Bourke St , Docklands 3008

Take a collection for Baiada chicken workers. Donations to the Workers Solidarity Network Baiada strike fund would be greatly appreciated. Deposits can be made to Carboni Social Club BSB 803226 Account no: 10077


Solidarity meetings

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