Dozens of Gippsland dairy workers have been locked out indefinitely by milk producer Parmalat. When workers arrived at the gates of the Parmalat-owned Longwarry Food Park, east of Melbourne, on July 5, they were met with news of the lockout and closure of the site.
The Longwarry workforce is among the lowest-paid in the dairy industry according to the National Union of Workers, and had been calling for improved conditions in their pay deal to bring them in line with other Parmalat sites.
They had previously given the company three days' notice of their intention to take protected industrial action — including refusals to work overtime, complete paperwork and load and unload trucks — as part of a push for better pay and conditions.
About 50 full-time and casual workers are affected by the lockout at the Longwarry plant, which produces UHT milk and cream cheese.
The central issues in the dispute are the union's claim to allow casuals to convert to permanent positions after six months of full-time hours, and its opposition to the company's wish to change rosters without notice.
NUW secretary Gary Maas said: “All the workers want is to go some way towards achieving the same conditions that other workers in industry get for the hard work that they do.
"Industry standards are good for everyone, including workers, their families and the regional communities this company is a part of."