Published: 19/12/2011

Unions organising dairy companies from New Zealand, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, USA and Australia came together November 16-18 in Hamilton to discuss the ongoing and further work of Dairy division. James Ritchie (NZDWU) chosen as chair. Apologies were received from the ATILRA delegation unable to fly due to travel difficulties.

The division was established with small core group of unions as the “Dairy Division Leadership Group” formed after the discussion which took place amongst representatives of dairy unions attending the IUF Executive in Geneva in April 2010.

This group had its first meeting in San Francisco in October 2010 where it was decided that the work of the Dairy Division (DD) will be carried forward by the team of Héctor Ponce (ATILRA) as interim president and James Ritchie (NZDWU) as interim vice-president, under the co-ordination of IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald.

Another decision taken in SF was to commission research on global dairy industry. The research project is resourced by the New Zealand Dairy Workers Union (NZDWU) and covers a range of dairy companies (amongst them Danone, Fonterra, Nestlé, Dairy Farmers of America, Arla, Kraft, the Lactalis Group). It also covers key dairy countries/regions (USA, New Zealand, India, Australia and the European Union).

The entire research material is available in English with summaries of key issues translated into relevant IUF languages and can be found on the DD web site here.

The General Secretary of IUF, Ron Oswald emphasized the importance of the work of Division. He pointed out that the initiatives undertaken by the group will set a good example and pattern for other sector activities.

Jennifer Gao, one of the authors of the “Global Dairy Industry Report” presented the company and country reports respectively.  The cooperative structures, financial conditions as well as the possible future strategy and perspectives of dairy companies were examined. The manufacturing and supply chain locations provided in the reports will help the dairy division advance the union mapping of the sector.

Participants reported on developments in their countries and gave reports on their organising successes and strategies with particular reference to the major companies and also with references to the ratio of permanent workers to contract, temporary or agency workers. The IUF gave an update on developments in the major dairy TNCs and IUF work within TNCs.

Bruce Donnison, Fonterra Group GM Sustainability joined the meeting and made a presentation on the sustainability activities of the company.

In order to provide for active involvement of delegates in the work of the division, the sector coordinator, Burcu Ayan showed how to upload news stories to the dairy division web-site and participants were encouraged to post articles of the developments in their countries’ dairy sector, their activities within the organised dairy companies and any information and updates they find useful to share.

Participants also agreed on join actions they would need for a well-established coordination and communication structure. In order to achieve this goal, each affiliate will nominate a contact person and a list will be compiled and distributed to unions organised in the dairy industry.

All the delegates as well as the secretariat will look for ways to exchange information. There was a joint understanding that all need to follow through on commitments made.

Participants committed themselves to exchange information on company developments as early as possible particularly by posting news to the division’s website.

Participants agreed that the fight against precarious work has two angles. First is the fight to change the conditions in companies and second is the political fight for regulation of precarious employment, decent work and food safety. Progress eliminating precarious work can happen if the campaigning on both company and governmental issues are conducted parallel and support each other. Participants agreed that learning from each others’ experiences and campaigns against precarious work will be essential.

The Leadership group will further discuss on where to hold next meeting in October/November 2012 and next dairy Conference in 2015