Foster's workers walk off the job

Issue 

On October 5, 350 union members and their supporters marched through Fortitude Valley to rally at a park in the north Brisbane suburb of New Farm to protest the refusal of Foster's Yatala brewery to negotiate with unions over the latest pay agreement.

Among the protesters was a large contingent of workers from the brewery, who had walked off the job for the first time in 20 years to attend the rally, which was organised by the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).

The Foster's Yatala brewery management is trying to push individual workplace agreements (AWAs) that would result in 33% less pay than their fellow Foster's workers on union agreements in other states.

"The vast majority of Yatala brewery employees want their wages and conditions set by a union collective agreement", said Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union state secretary Ron Monaghan.

He highlighted a recent academic study that found workers on individual agreements were on average $104 per week worse off than those on union bargained collective agreements. He said Foster's last financial statement showed a net profit of $716 million. Monaghan asked, "Is the problem Foster's inability to pay?"

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary Andrew Dettmer stressed the importance of removing the Howard government at the coming federal election, but said "it's crucial to build on the Your Rights at Work movement after Howard has been thrown in the dustbin of history".

ETU state secretary Dick Williams denounced the Howard government for playing the race card in the lead-up to the election through immigration minister Kevin Andrews' demonising of Sudanese refugees. This was met by shouts of "racists" from the crowd.

He urged the workers to vote for the party that they thought "delivered the best outcome" for their families when it came to industrial relations. But he also warned them that if Labor wins the federal election they would still have to campaign for their rights and that all workers should, "talk to the minor parties, who may hold the balance of power in the Senate, to help defeat anti-worker laws".

The workers then marched to the company's Queensland headquarters.