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NUW Spotlights Brutal Conditions at Leading Australian 'Ethical Poultry' Producer

26 October 2010 News
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Australia's National Union of Workers (NUW) has rallied behind an immigrant Sudanese poultry worker who was sacked for raising allegations of racisim at his workplace. In the process, the union has helped spotlight a brutally exploitative workplace regime at one of the country's leading 'ethically produced' poultry brands. The union's 'Free range chicken - caged workers' campaign has spurred a government investigation into conditions at the Lilydale factory in Adelaide. The Lilydale brand belongs to Baiada, Australia's largest poultry producer.

Anyuon Mabior, a Sudanese migrant employed at Lilydale, was sacked last month in a dispute arising from his refusal to carry out an unsafe forklift assignment. The union supported his unfair dismissal claim - and then used recent legislation to gain entry to the factory after presenting Fair Work Australia (the national industrial relations tribunal) a petition and signed statements from a third of the workforce testifying that they were "working under poor pay, harassment and fear."

Among the statements: "I used to be a supervisor but I was demoted when I insisted workers be allowed a break after 16 hours" and "I have been told if we join the union the company will be unhappy and we could lose our jobs." Other statements spoke of systematic underpayment of wages and intimidation and bullying by supervisors.

Among the mainly immigrant workforce, many are actually employed through labour hire agencies. Workers with visas limiting the number of hours they can legally work spoke of being pressured to perform additional hours after clocking off. According to the NUW, workers say that lately the company name on their payslips has been changing every week along with pay rates. New workers at the workers are referred to by management as "fresh" - and "fresher" means "cheaper", says the NUW's Dave Garland.

The union has organized rallies in support of Mabior, built political support for the Lildale workers and used the occasion to strengthen organizing and membership in the sector.

You can view the NUW 'Free the Lilydale Chicken Workers' campaign page online here.