Contributed by Ben Wilson
The battle against the attempt by ice cream maker Streets to slash wages is over.
Facing ongoing resistance among its workforce and a boycott of the company’s products that was starting to bite as Australia enters the peak season, has forced significant compromises from the major multinational owned (Unilever) ice cream maker.
Iconic streets brands include Golden Gaytime, Paddle Pop and Magnum.
At the company’s Minto plant in Sydney yesterday, management agreed to withdraw its application to terminate jobs, provide a wage rise of 5 percent now, a further rise of 1.5 percent in a year’s time and 2.5 percent the year after that, instead of cutting wages; retain existing redundancy provisions; and keep the 12 hour shift structure.
A further concession will see the introduction of 39 permanent part time positions, as an alternative to a casual workforce.
In return, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union will stop any action, including the Streets Free Summer boycott and withdraw a video from social media.
Workers have endorsed productivity concessions, involving the acceptance of a new seasonal 44 hour a week roster and some workplace flexibility, involving shorter breaks and acceptance of a limited number of voluntary redundancies. Management will have more scope to move workers between machines. There will no longer be a Sunday roster.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus hailed the agreement, as a “huge win for the workers at Streets”.
Like Carlton and United Breweries in the dispute it faced last year, streets faced the prospect of a heavy impact on sales as the weather warms up.
AMWU New South Wales secretary Steve Murphy said workers had been “staggered” by the huge support received from the public.
“This campaign, driven by the stories of ordinary workers and their families, became the touchstone for a broader campaign to fix broken workplace laws,’’ he said.
Although concessions were made on both sides, the key issues of a large scale wage cut and the casualisation of the workforce through a labour hire company were prevented, meaning that from the workers point of view, this has been an important win.
The broader impact is that, as was the case at Carlton and United Breweries, enlisting the support of the wider community has been shown to be an effective means to maintain workplace standards, at a time when major employers are more willing than before, to try and enforce draconian changes.
Maintaining the line against the denigration of working conditions is important because of the direct social impact on those who are affected.
Just as important is that if the campaign to push down wages is successful it will seriously aggravate the growing divide in income between the wages share and that going to the owners of major corporations.
Stagnant wages are already hurting the Australian economy. Imagine what slashing wages by 30 to 50 percent would do?
In this respect, the workers at Streets and their union have done us all a great favour by standing up and winning.