Win for Lilydale chicken workers

Protest outside Lilydale plant, September 24.

In a first for the post-Howard industrial relations system, the Fair Work Ombudsman has granted the National Union of Workers (NUW) the right to enter and inspect time and wage records of all workers at Adelaide’s Lilydale chicken factory.

The company was investigated by ABC’s Lateline on October 21. It showed the sacking of Sudanese migrant Anyoun Mabior and the terrible conditions at the factory. These conditions included underpayment, bullying, harassment, racism and breaches of health and safety laws.

Mabior, a NUW member, was sacked after complaining about a racist email. Statutory declarations from workers, who wanted to remain anonymous, described 16-hour shifts, being told to clock off but continue working unpaid and being told, “If you don't like it, don't come in tomorrow”.

Many were told not to join or talk to the union or they would be sacked.

Most of the workforce are from non-English-speaking backgrounds and the NUW alleges the company has exploited the workers' ignorance of their rights at work.

An October 28 posting on a Facebook page set up to support the Lilydale workers said management was keeping workers on site after they had finished their shift. The post asked: “Could it be a coincidence that the workers are being kept an hour after the advertised start time of an off site union meeting? Why would a company be scared of workers meeting the union?”

The NUW has organised protests at the site and pickets of Coles supermarkets that sell Lilydale chicken. Information leaflets and petitions can be downloaded from its website.

State ALP MPs Leesa Vlahos and Steve Georganous has raised the matter in the South Australian parliament.