Settlement at Unilever Australia defends collective bargaining rights
On November 22, members of the IUF-affiliated AMWU approved an agreement which puts an end to the long dispute at Streets Ice Cream in Minto ignited by the company's attack on collective bargaining. When negotiations for the renewal of the enterprise agreement at Streets deadlocked in July this year, Unilever announced that negotiations were over and applied to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to terminate the agreement and impose a generic award, with the implication of substantial cuts to pay and the elimination of contract language on redundancies and the use of agency workers. At the bi-annual meeting in London September 27 with the IUF secretariat, affiliates and a representative of IndustriAll, the IUF signaled strong opposition to this unilateral attack on collective bargaining rights and its willingness to take action in support of the union and its rights. The Streets workers and their struggle received strong support from Australian unions and substantial media coverage. Unilever's harsh 'social media' policy, which claimed to prohibit Streets employees from critical discussion of the company even with close family, was widely condemned.
The settlement approved by the Streets workers was subsequently negotiated at the FWC on the condition that Unilever withdraw its threat to unilaterally terminate the site agreement. The new 4-year agreement maintains the 12-hour shift structure and language on redundancies in the previous agreement which Unilever had sought to eliminate and provides for a pay increase over the life of the contract.