Little Creatures using sham contracting

November 16, 2012
Sign on gate at picket. Photo: Grubby Creatures Brewing

A community protest and picket has been set up for a second time outside the Little Creatures Brewing factory under construction in Geelong. The picket began on October 22 but was lifted after 7 days so that negotiations could take place. The talks broke down and the picket has been reimposed since November 14.

Up to 50 Geelong workers have protested every weekday about the use of “sham contracting”.

A complex web of organisations has been set up. Lions, the owner of Little Creatures Brewing, brought in Krones, a brewery and bottling specialist from Germany. Krones in turn engaged TFG group from Western Australia. TFG then employed an industrial relations expert, Colin Milne from Interposition Pty Ltd, who hired the contractors.

Milne claims to have engaged 25 individual contractors to carry out the metal fabrication work in the new brewery. This type of work is traditionally undertaken by workers employed on wages.

The dispute started when it became obvious that no Geelong workers were going to be employed on the metal fabrication. Community activists set up a picket to stop the job until TFG would talk about employing local workers and ensuring employment conditions met industry standards.

The first protest stopped all work from proceeding and prevented contractors entering the site for seven days. Victorian police were used to guard the site with often as many as 10 police for every 20 protesters. The local sheriff’s office even turned up one day to scan all car number plates and book people with outstanding fines.

Some protesters went to the Geelong Races and handed out leaflets explaining the issues and asking people to boycott Little Creatures beer until the dispute is over. A national boycott of Little Creature’s beer is being planned and a Facebook page has been set up called Grubby Creatures Brewing.

In late October, TFG contacted Geelong Trades Hall to ask for negotiations. The protest was lifted to allow talks to begin. However, at the same time TFG lodged an application in the Victorian Supreme Court seeking an injunction and damages against the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and Tim Gooden, Secretary of Geelong Trades Hall.

TFG refused to negotiate in good faith and the court application was eventually dismissed on November 8.

The community protest began again on November 14. The next day the TFG drove a bus with non union contractors through the picket. Later that day, 12 police moved four protesters away from the gate so the bus carrying the contractors could leave. The protesters told Green Left Weekly they were not preventing the bus leaving and that the police were getting increasingly heavy handed.

On the same day the TFG sought injunctions against the AMWU, CFMEU and Tim Gooden. The court ordered injunctions against the AMWU and the CFMEU to prevent them organising any actions or going near the site.

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