Marathon Foods dispute

Issue 

Marathon Foods dispute

By Sarah Lantz

MELBOURNE — A sign stating "Dim sims, spring rolls and rotten bosses" adorns the front of the Marathon Foods Company in Kensington where Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) members and supporters are picketing until an acceptable enterprise agreement is reached.

This is the first enterprise agreement to be negotiated at Marathon Foods. Since January, negotiations between the AMWU and the company have been unsuccessful.

Debbie Quarrell, an organiser for the food and confectionery division of the AMWU, told Green Left Weekly, "The closest the union has come to an agreement has been an offer from the company to produce a 'memorandum of understanding' for the workers. We made it clear this is unacceptable."

The AMWU scored a victory at the Industrial Relations Commission on May 5 when the IRC directed Marathon Foods to begin negotiations with the union. When this ruling was not implemented immediately, AMWU members decided unanimously to strike. A picket line was established.

Quarrell and a number of other unionists have been subpoenaed to the Supreme Court on claims that the workers on the picket line are "disruptive". Quarrell commented: "This yet another stalling tactic, an attempt to blame the workers instead of addressing the sub-standard working conditions in the company. Until Marathon Foods is prepared to address workers' needs, the picket will continue."

Some of the workers, most of whom are migrant women, told Green Left Weekly the employees are prepared to picket until an acceptable agreement is won. They described the appalling health and safety conditions and how they are threatened, harassed and intimidated in the workplace.

Morale on the picket line is high with some other unions and local residents demonstrating their solidarity.