Free chickens, caged workers

Sacked Lilydale poultry worker, Anyuon Mabior. Photo: Free the Lilydale chicken workers/Faceboo

Chanting “Free chickens, caged workers”, on September 24 more than 100 community members and trade unionists protested against the treatment of Sudanese immigrant Anyuon Mabior.

Anyuon was sacked by Lilydale Free Range Chicken, in Wingfield, for complaining about a racist email. The National Union of Workers (NUW) has lodged an unfair dismissal claim through Fair Work Australia on Anyuon’s behalf, and will also seek a time and wages inspection.

The NUW's website reported management “urged Anyuon to sign a statement saying he had no issues with racism, dismissing his initial claim. ‘After I refused to sign, they said I was fabricating stories’, Anyuon said. He was then promptly sacked.”

Using a megaphone, NUW organisers spoke to workers at the site in Cantonese and an African language.
The protest heard that some workers were not allowed to leave work to join the protest. The management set up an alarm to go off for the duration of the action.

According to the NUW: “Adelaide Poultry, Anyuon’s employer, employs many poultry processing workers who are allegedly on sub-contracting arrangements where they are supposedly-self employed and are therefore responsible for their own tax, work cover and other expenses.

“The site employs around 300 mostly-immigrant workers, 200 of which are labour hire, many, [the NUW] suspects, are paid below the award wage. ‘We think, given a real fear on the part of Lilydale workers, that they can’t voice concerns about their basic rights’, SA [NUW] lead organiser Dave Garland said.”

Anyuon told the rally he was being doubly victimised: for being a union member and for fighting racism.

Among those who rallied around to show support for Anyuon and the Lilydale Chicken workers were members of the Sudanese community and union officials. Speakers included: Garland; Dr Joseph Masika, chairperson of the African Communities Council of SA; Labor MPs Steve Georganas and Leesa Vlahos; Janet Giles, secretary of Unions SA, and NUW general branch secretary Sam Roberts.

Garland read out a letter from the Asia Pacific regional secretary of the International Union of Foodworkers, addressed to Lilydale management.

The letter condemned Anyuon’s sacking, saying it breached international law. “Yet management has simply added to this injustice at the Lilydale plant by unfairly terminating Mr Anyuon Mabior as punishment for raising the issue and thereby violating worker and trade union rights.”

He also read out a solidarity message from Poultry Workers Rights Network of Thailand.

Roberts said NUW members around the country were united in their support for Anyuon. He said NUW activists would be holding protests outside Coles’ supermarkets up and down the east coast over the weekend. Coles stocks Lilydale products. He said activists would hand out flyers telling customers about Lilydale’s treatment of its workers.

He said there would be many more actions, until Anyuon received justice.

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