Last week we reported on a United Workers Union action taking place at Peters Ice Cream in Mulgrave. Many of you may have been absolutely shocked to learn that such a family friendly and well-loved brand was actually a heartless grub operation. Well, I'm afraid we have more bad news for you this week.
UWU members at McCormick Foods in Clayton haven't had a pay rise in five years, and management wants them to go five more. The site that makes, among other things, McDonalds' Big Mac sauce is now the subject of indefinite strike action that is truly representative of Australia's economy.
When the Morrison government talks about economic recovery, this is the blind spot. Wage stagnation is the real problem. While the economy (if it even makes sense to talk about "the economy" when so many people are struggling) is expected to grow by 6.5% over the next two years, wages are looking like they will grow by only 1.2%. Those are just numbers: the reality is that working people are going to struggle as the cost of living goes up and their wages don't.
At a rally last Thursday workers marched up and down the long suburban street outside the manufacturer, chanting: "One day longer, one day stronger!" Media outlets were gathered to talk to delegates and union officials. Sally McManus, there to lend solidarity and fire up the workers, was visibly annoyed when a journalist suggested that because these workers were currently getting paid higher than the award, it was somehow a bit rich to ask for anything more. We've seen this time and time again: workers asking for a bigger slice of the pie are seen as greedy, while the bosses are never subject to the same kind of questioning in the media.
To say Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg don't care about this isn't quite correct. They don't, of course, but more importantly they deliberately can't allow wages to increase. That's because we all know there is only one way that wages go up: unions. Bosses don't give pay rises just because people work hard. The Liberal Party's DNA can't allow unions to have any influence in Australian workplaces, so they'll tank the economy and sell out the workers they applauded for being essential in order to appease their corporate mates. And then they’ll sell company profits as economic recovery, even though things are about to get worse for Australian workers.
With the catastrophic Omnibus Bill due to be brought to the Senate any day now, and JobKeeper set to end on the 28th of March, these workers are at the pointy end of an economic crisis that is already being ignored. Economic recovery (whatever that means) will mean nothing if it isn’t shared by everyone. It is unclear what metrics are being used to declare the emergency over, but it definitely isn’t anything the average worker will be able to point to.
But hey, did you know that you can order as much extra sauce as you want when you go to McDonalds? Isn't that fun? The stores might run out of sauce pretty quickly, and McDonalds/Hungry Jacks/KFC/Nando's might get pretty mad at McCormick for not properly handling their industrial dispute. They might start to look for new suppliers, or something. Crazy. But you don't want dry nuggets, do you? Get the extra sauce. Go on.
(The secret ingredient is solidarity.)