Production and distribution workers at Carlton & United Breweries' (CUB) Abbotsford plant in Melbourne brought the site to a standstill for three hours on August 25, threatening further action if 55 sacked workers were not reinstated.
Two hundred members of United Voice and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) at the brewery held a stop-work meeting to condemn CUB's sacking of its maintenance staff and raised concerns about the impact this has had on safety standards.
Workers have reported a significant upsurge in equipment failure and disruption to production lines since maintenance workers were sacked in June and replaced by inexperienced staff from a new contractor, Programmed, on up to 65% less pay.
The sacked workers were members of the Electrical Trades Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union who have helped maintain a daily protest outside the brewery.
Staff voted to demand Programmed rehire the workers with no loss in pay and conditions. They warned of escalating action if management did not urgently resolve this dispute, putting at risk CUB's ability to supply beer for the AFL finals.
“Abbotsford Brewery workers have been making beer for Grand Final fans for over 100 years at this iconic site. They are footy fans too, and this is something they do with great pride,” said United Voice's Victorian secretary Jess Walsh.
“Brewery workers are asking all footy fans to stand with them, and send a message to CUB's multinational owner that trashing Australian jobs is a disgraceful act, and won't be tolerated.”
“SABMiller's contempt for its long-standing maintenance staff has left our members angry that their own jobs, and their safety, may be at risk because the new maintenance workers simply don't have the skills and experience needed to keep the brewery running safely and smoothly.”
CFMEU safety manager Gerry Ayers said workers were right to be alarmed about the impact the sackings were having on safety standards at the site.
“In sacking these 55 maintenance workers, CUB has cast aside over 900 years of collective knowledge, skills and experience. When big corporations put profit before safety, too often the consequences are tragic,” said Ayers.
“In 2008 CUB pleaded guilty and was fined $2 million after a worker died at this site. Union members will do everything they can to ensure that does not happen again.”