After almost six weeks on strike, United Workers Union (UWU) members at McCormick in Clayton agreed on April 7 to accept a new offer from the company which included retaining all the conditions the company had wanted to remove and a pay rise.
UWU members took protected, indefinite industrial action on February 26 after not having been able to negotiate a new enterprise agreement for five years, nor having been given a pay rise over that time.
The company produces herbs and spices, sauces, Keen’s mustard and aeroplane jelly. It supplies KFC with its distinctive gravy as well as sauces for McDonalds, Hungry Jacks, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Red Rooster.
McCormick had wanted to slash conditions including cuts to shift penalties, overtime pay and the duration of meal breaks. But after the industrial action, it came back with an offer that included all the previous conditions it had wanted to remove, including the four-day week roster, a 9% pay rise over three years and a $5000 sign-on bonus.
The company had not offered a pay rise for five years, despite its 40% growth rate and the fact that it made big profits during the pandemic with some workers doing 12-hour shifts. The workers suffered a 6.7% decrease in the value of their wages over those years.
Susie Allison, UWU Victorian secretary said on February 26 that the food companies which made profits over the pandemic had “a responsibility to workers and the community to pay fair wage increases to assist with economic recovery”.
The workers and their union were so determined to win they set up a community picket. UWU organiser Andy Giles told the 3CR radio Solidarity Breakfast program on February 27 that they were prepared to strike and stay on the picket line “for as long as it takes”.
Perhaps McCormick underestimated the resolve of the workers, and did not expect the amount of community support they garnered. More than 1250 people donated to the UWU strike fund, other unions lent support and many community members attended the picket-line.
This boosted the morale and determination of the McCormick workers.
“From the start, workers knew this was bigger than just one site. This has been a fight for respect for all essential workers who toiled through the pandemic, while their companies made massive profits, only to be told that there was no money for a pay rise and that workers had to accept what they were given,” said the UWU on April 7.
“But McCormick workers drew a line in the sand and said ‘enough is enough’. This win has shown that when workers stand united, they can win!” the UWU said on its Facebook page.