Sigma workers beat lockout, win dispute

After three weeks of action, warehouse workers at the Sigma pharmaceutical Melbourne plant returned to work on March 21. Workers fended off attempts by the company to abolish afternoon and night shift loadings. They also won a 4% pay rise.

The workers, members of the National Union of Workers at the Rowville plant in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, had rarely been on strike.

The call went out on March 16 from unions and the Worker Solidarity Network for community supporters to join the picket line. When other unions and community members started coming down to the picket line, the company became worried.

Sigma locked out 150 workers from March 5 to 14 to intimidate them into ceasing all industrial action.

The workers walked off the job for 48 hours on February 23 after Sigma management told them that it would cut night time shift loadings.

Workers also walked off the job for 48 hours on March 1.

Although the lockout ended on March 14, the workers decided to remain on an indefinite strike because the company refused to back down on its plan to remove night-shift loadings.

Sigma owns some of the largest retail pharmacy brands in Australia including Amcal and Guardian. It has ceased to manufacture pharmaceuticals and now is solely a distributor of medications to around 4000 pharmacies.

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