BY GRAHAM WILLIAMS
BALLARAT — Workers employed by the McCains frozen foods company, one of the largest employers in Western Victoria, last week reached an "in principle" enterprise agreement after an industrial dispute that lasted more than six months.
The 600 workers at McCains are members of the food and metals division of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU). Important components of the agreement reached include a wage rise of 15% over three years, income protection, flexible rostered days off and long service leave after 10 years.
After three months during which the company held off negotiating, the workers began one-hour production stoppages. The company responded in June by locking out all the workers for a week and running a big propaganda campaign through the Ballarat Courier. The lockout continued until the end of August.
Another major company that also recently reached a settlement as part of the AMWU's Campaign 2003 was the FNP car brake line producer (formerly called Bendex Mintex). The 550 workers employed by FNP faced heavy media attacks by the company.
"The company was able to produce articles in the Ballarat Courier talking about how they are a great employer and that workers receive over a $100,000 a year", said Victor Jose, metals organiser for the AMWU. "This was backed up by editorialsthat shit-canned the union by suggesting that we were only in town to cause trouble and would be bad for the jobs situation in Ballarat."
The Ballarat Courier is one of many regional Australian newspapers owned by the Murdoch family's News Corporation.
"The workers responded to this in the best way that they could by doing mailouts and letter boxing suggesting that if the people of Ballarat wanted to find out the real situation at the company then they should come to the picket line and speak to the workers", added Jose.
Through the Ballarat Courier, FNP tried to suggest that if the workers and the union proceeded with their claim then this would cause the company to close down its production sites in Australia and transfer production to alternative plants in Malaysia and Thailand.
From Green Left Weekly, September 10, 2003.
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