In the early hours of December 12, 55 Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) workers returned to work to the sound of bagpipes and applause.
Five hundred unionists and community members turned out to congratulate the workers on their successful 180-day campaign.
In addition to the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), members and officials from the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Australian Education Union (AEU), Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association (VAHPA), Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), Australian Services Union (ASU), United Voice, Victorian Trades Hall Council, Gippsland Trades and Labour Council and We Are Union all turned out to solidarity with the CUB55.
Union officials gave speeches congratulating the CUB55 and the national union movement, for supporting the strike and the boycott campaign.
ETU state secretary Troy Gray said support for the campaign poured in from all over the country. “It’s not all about the money but $1.4 million dollars in 185 days has been spent on this campaign,” Gray said. “The donations were made to make sure that these 55 workers had a win, not just for themselves but for all Australian workers who still believe in a fair go.”
ETU organiser Steve Diston directed his speech directly to the CUB55: “You’ve won your jobs, they’re not a gift or charity from anyone wearing a suit in there [CUB]. You above all have won your job because you’ve put in the hard yards for it.”
WA Branch Secretary of the MUA Chris Cain also spoke and encouraged workers to talk up the victory and understand the tactics that have been successful in this campaign.
In a joint statement, the ETU and AMWU called for an immediate end to the boycott of CUB products and said: “All picketing workers have been invited to return to work at their previous positions at the Abbotsford brewery on fair and decent union terms and conditions, which provide job security to the workers. All parties agreed to productivity and efficiency improvements that will be implemented at the brewery. CUB and the unions have mapped out a better approach based on mutual respect, productivity and a shared passion to make the best beers with the best skilled workers.”
This victory is a testament to what the union movement can achieve via solidarity and community support, more of which will be needed in 2017 in the face of the ABCC and other anti-union legislation.