Australian workers locked out by dairy giant Lactalis/Parmalat

20 February 2017 Urgent Action
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Workers at the Lactalis/Parmalat dairy factory in Echuca, in Australia's Victoria state, have been locked out since January 18 in a dispute over outsourcing and the use of temporary workers.

Parmalat, which is majority-owned by the French-based Lactalis, bought the plant from Fonterra in February 2016 and negotiations to renew the enterprise agreement began in July. The company initially proposed a 9 percent wage increase over the next 3 years for existing workers on condition that all newly-hired workers would be paid 20 percent less than existing employees. Management dropped this demand in the face of union resistance but now seeks to contract out services and employ more temporary workers. Union members at the plant, members of the IUF-affiliated AMWU and the electrician's union ETU, unanimously rejected the employer proposals and announced a 4-hour strike. The company responded by shutting down operations, locking out the workers and declaring the site would not reopen until the dispute was resolved.

The workers are maintaining a round-the-clock protest camp outside the factory. During the recent heatwave when temperatures soared above 40 degrees Celsius, the company cut off access to water at the camp site. The workers are getting strong community support and a local water carrier has provided a water tanker for maintaining essential needs at the protest camp.  

to the company, calling on it to immediately lift the lockout and enter into negotiations for a fair agreement which does not discriminate against new employees.