Union boycott of Campbells soups
By Bronwen Brook and Adam Leeman
MELBOURNE — A spirited meeting of 70 mushroom pickers employed by Campbells Pty Ltd was held in the Bundoora region on February 9.
The workers, mostly women, discussed the failure of their union, the Australian Workers Union-Federation of Industrial, Manufacturing and Engineering Employees (AWU-FIMEE), to take up their appalling working conditions. The women gathered to receive information about joining the new Shearers and Rural Workers Union (SRWU).
AWU-FIMEE and Campbells, working in collaboration, have banned the SRWU from giving out information on company property. According to the workers, AWU-FIMEE and Campbells have harassed any employees considering resigning from AWU-FIMEE and joining the SRWU.
The SRWU was called to the work site at Mernda, by one of the women workers. The woman says she was offered a new job with a $32,000 wage and a company car by an AWU-FIMEE representative if she would stop campaigning for the SRWU. After knocking back the offer, she was threatened with physical harm by an unknown person on the phone.
Workers receive only $2.50 per box. Most pick 20-30 boxes a day, earning around $60 for labour-intensive work. The 300 workers have only 10 toilets, which often become blocked. The pickers work in unsafe, asbestos ridden environments and suffer petty harassment from management such as shortening of tea breaks.
Police and security guards have been called in to stop SRWU officials from entering company property. Workers who are seen to be supporters, members or interested in the new union have been interviewed by management in the presence of an AWU-FIMEE representative and instructed that their union is the AWU-FIMEE.
The SRWU has initiated a boycott Campbells Soups campaign at supermarkets to take the issue of workers rights to the wider community. Contact the SRWU on (053) 329 127 or write to PO Box 428, Ballarat 3353.