The dispute involving 55 unfairly sacked Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) maintenance workers is achieving media fame and causing a widespread boycott of CUB products.
The community protest that began 19 weeks ago has recently exploded on social media and now includes #BoycottCUB merchandise, giant city billboards and anti-CUB parties.
“We had nearly 10,000 non-CUB grand final barbecues that were hosted,” Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney said on the ABC’s Q&A program on October 17. The theme of the program was the government’s agenda to curb union power, but it largely focused on the CUB.
Half the Q&A panel came to the defence of the beer giant, with economist Judith Sloan saying the sacking of the workers was lawful and “there’s a bit of an adjustment happening in Australia”.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said: “Yes, it may have been legal, it doesn’t make it right” which drew loud applause from the audience.
Unions attempted to end the dispute on October 20 by meeting with new CUB owner AB InBev in front of Australian Fair Work Commission president Ian Ross. AB InBev president Jan Craps said the company was “keen to continue to have a cooperative and productive relationship with our workers, our contractors and the trade unions that represent them”.
Despite the lack of a resolution, the meeting was seen as a positive step for the CUB55, who had been ignored by the old SABMiller management. In August, the Fair Work Commission sided with CUB, ruling that the protest was unfairly name-calling the replacement workers and prohibited words like “scab”, “rat” and “dog.”
The usual Thursday rally on October 20 was converted into a fundraiser at Trades Hall, where a wide range of non-CUB beers were donated in solidarity by local producers. The night also featured food, music and speeches from organisers including Steve Diston, who joked: “When I go to my local pub, I will drink out of the urinal before I will drink CUB beer”.
The solidarity and support for the CUB55 is significant for all Australians, as the Fair Work Commission and the Turnbull government are clearly letting this happen.
Kearney summarised the effect of their stance on Q&A: “You want to evade fair employment terms, this is all you have to do. You outsource to a labour hire firm and then, bang, you get three people on the other side of the country to sign an EBA that these guys don’t have anything to do with, done.”
The Abbotsford CUB plant produces a carton of beer at a cost of around $2.50 and is part of a multinational corporation that made $4.4 billion profit in 2015.
Together we can force CUB to reverse their unfair decision. Boycott all CUB products until these workers are reinstated on full pay.
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