"Without us, there is no Ingham"
Workers at Inghams in South Australian and Western Australia have won a stunning victory and returned to work five days after starting their strike. Standing together - migrant and Aussie-born, across two states and a dozen languages - the workers forced their billion dollar employer to listen to their concerns and value their work.
As a result of worker action, an improved offer has been submitted which includes a 5.12 percent increase in the first year with back pay and 4 percent increases in the subsequent years. Inghams has also committed to better in-housing of labour hire workers, improved breaks and an external audit to investigate the behaviour of senior management in both states.
A tough workplace to make a buck-buck
Work in the poultry processing plant is tough. The work is hard and fast-paced, and workers are timed when they go to the toilet. Workers report that their "bodies hurt all day long" from being pushed to work faster, and yet their pay packets are so meagre they are forced to choose between paying rent and buying decent food.
United Workers Union members had been in negotiations since January, but the company refused to consider even a $1.50 pay rise, complaining of inflation costs. Meanwhile Inghams chief executive Andrew Reeves was granted a 9 percent pay rise on his salary this year taking his base salary to $1.2 million per annum.
Inghams supplies all major supermarkets and fast food giants such as McDonalds and KFC. The UWU warned the strike was likely to have significant impacts on chicken supply chains to these retailers.
Hatching a fair deal
The strike was not easy. In a disgusting show of disrespect for their workforce, Inghams management left rotting chicken in bins at the company gate to create unpleasant conditions for the workers on the picket. Workers reported efforts by the company to sow division between different groups of workers. The workers however, would not split.
In an inspirational show of solidarity, workers at the South Australian factory refused to sign on to the improved deal until their fellow workers in WA were offered the same conditions.
Throughout bargaining, workers were told again and again they would receive no backpay if they took industrial action, but they will receive backpay. They were told that they would never get more than a 3% deal, but they have received an effective pay rise of over 5% in their first year and 4% for years 2 and 3. They were told they’d never stand united, but they are more united than ever, at each site and across state borders.
The win will see an average additional $100 in workers' pocket a week. But importantly the workers have won respect! Inghams has recognised that the disrespectful and unfair treatment of workers needs to end and committed to an external audit to investigate the behaviour of senior management across both states.
This is the power of union.
But about that chocolate milk with your crispy chicken...
Dairy workers at Bega, who make Dare Iced Coffee, have been on strike since Sunday to win a fair pay rise that recognises rising cost of living! These workers rolled over their last agreement to help the company through a difficult period and have been rewarded by the company attempting to give them a real wage cut.
Workers aren't asking for the world - just enough to keep putting food on the table with the cost of groceries going through the roof!