On October 10, 90% of poultry workers at Golden Farms processing plant in Geelong voted in favour of a protected action ballot and to reject the company's offer on a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).
The National Union of Workers (NUW) has been having regular meetings with delegates, as well as mass members’ meetings, over the past few weeks to canvass members’ opinions on the conditions that are most important to them and to plan a campaign to put pressure on the company.
On October 11, the company responded by withdrawing previous offers and presenting a new offer of a 3% wage increase for each year of the agreement, with no clause requiring contractors to receive the same wages and conditions as direct employees, no ratio of contractors to directly employed workers, no new starter rate and a delegate involved in the safety committee.
This new offer fails to address the problem of contracting at the site. A number of contractors at the site are being exploited by the company, doing the same work as the directly employed workers for less pay and worse conditions.
The union has been trying to reach out to these workers to explain the situation, but there are language barriers and contractors fear that if they speak to the union, they and their family members at the site will be sacked.
The directly employed workers at the site are being fed a number of lies from the employer — including that the company is reducing the number of contractors; the company is hiring more directly employed workers; the union is bullying workers to go on strike; the company will never use contractors in all areas on the site; and poultry workers at other sites are all paid less than the workers at Golden Farms.
The truth is the number of contractors on site has doubled since the last EBA; all actions being taken by NUW members are voted on by the members; at another site owned by the same company, contractors are being used across four different areas; and the Golden Farms workers are the third-highest paid, with Baiada and Inghams workers receiving a higher pay.
NUW members are fighting for a clause in their EBA saying the company agrees to employ a quota of local Geelong workers. With Ford finally shutting its doors on October 7 (1200 jobs) and Alcoa closing two years ago (500 jobs), clauses in local EBAs for local jobs make sense. The NUW’s Jobs for Geelong campaign is a great outreach slogan to involve the local community and build solidarity with their EBA campaign.
The EBA campaign is ongoing. NUW delegates from Coles, Woolworths, Polar Fresh, Americold, Cryovac, Inghams, Baiada and La Ionica have shown support for Golden Farms workers. Mass members’ meetings will be taking place on October 24, where NUW members will vote on the company’s latest offer and decide their next steps in the campaign.