Foster's workers step up campaign

Issue 

Workers at the Foster's brewery at Yatala, south of Brisbane, have stepped up their campaign for a union agreement, following a victory over the latest attempt by the company's management to impose a non-union agreement on the work force at the plant. Scott Wilson, Electrical Trades Union (ETU) organiser for the site, told Green Left Weekly that the Yatala workers had voted by 154 to 120 to reject management's third offer of a non-union agreement, which provides wages and conditions significantly below those of workers at other breweries in southern states.

Workers at Yatala, the majority of whom are members of the ETU, the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, have been campaigning for months for the right to adopt a union agreement, with stoppages and pickets at the Yatala plant, and rallies outside the Foster's state headquarters in Fortitude Valley. Their campaign has been a test case for the former Howard government's anti-union Work Choices legislation.

Wilson explained that a delegation of organisers and delegates from the three unions involved at Yatala were "heading off to Melbourne to continue the campaign". A mass meeting of Foster's workers had been called by the unions at the company's Abbotsford plant there to hear from the Yatala delegation on December 6, but the management had gone to the Industrial Commission to attempt to have the meeting declared illegal.

The Yatala delegation was also seeking a meeting with Foster's CEO Trevor Hoy to present petitions supporting their campaign.

Wilson said that a mass meeting of Yatala workers on December 4 had voted to call on the incoming federal Labor government and the new ALP MP for the local area to explain why Work Choices was not being abolished as soon as possible. He added that the workers' "morale had been boosted by the ALP election victory," but that they were not confident that the government would act quickly on the issue.