General Mills workers strike for secure work and fair pay

United Workers Union members standing strong. Photo: UWU/Facebook

Workers at General Mills (GM) in Rooty Hill, who make the well-known brands such as Old El Paso and Latina Fresh pasta, started an indefinite strike for a fair pay rise and secure work on June 3.

GM is one of the largest food manufacturing companies in the world: in 2019-20, it made more than $26 billion.

The workers are largely on casual contracts and now the company wants to slash rights and conditions, including reintroducing work on weekends while only offering a low pay rise without back pay.

United Workers Union (UWU) organiser Tom Sayers told Green Left at a Family Day at the Rooty Hill site, attended by dozens of General Mills workers, families and their supporters on June 12, that the workers had done a great job during the pandemic. They deserve fair pay and conditions and “a fair share of the profits”, he said.

“Workers were on the job up to seven days a week during COVID-19, risking their lives and their family’s lives to ensure Australians had access to food during the pandemic. GM’s profits greatly increased.”

Many workers have been employed by GM for more than 10 years. Despite this, many casual labour hire co-workers have been employed on insecure contracts for more than five years. They desperately want a permanent job, Sayers said.

The workers are demanding a 3% annual pay rise, backdated to February; an end to compulsory overtime; and for GM to withdraw its claim to “grandfather” —  limit — access to redundancy provisions. Another is for all casual workers with more than two years’ service to be converted to permanents.

“The company has rejected their claims, but has not put forward a new position,” Sayers said. “GM is using the old tactic of attempting to divide and rule the workforce, by trying to use casualisation and labour hire against the permanent workers.” But, the workers are “united, holding the line and refusing to back down”, he said.

“GM workers have been encouraged by the support from unionists in other sections of the food industry and from the broader union movement. This fight is part of a more general struggle against wage stagnation and the greed of the capitalist class,” Sayers concluded.

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