This is a recording of conversations between our writer Ugly and representatives of the CUB 55 that took place on 12 October, at the community assembly point’ outside the company plant in Abbotsford in Victoria. Ugly has been spending a considerable amount of time there over the months, helping out wherever he can. The names of the individuals who took part are not used to protect them against reprisals.
One of the blokes here told me; “Last week they decided to change their contractor. That change over will probably be about the end October. So with Programme leaving, Chelgrave is taking over the contract and all the workforce is moving over. The scab workforce is moving over. They [CUB] went around and told all the CUB employees that they now had agreements with all the unions involved, and that we would all be coming over and joining the company and the dispute was over”.
“And so all the employees streamed out of the brewery, came up to us with big smiles on their faces and shaking our hands and saying everything’s fantastic, and we said “look nothing’s changed. They’ve just fed you another round of lies, you know. This seemed to be the last roll of the dice, by the current management because the A B Inbev people take over this week, so I’m pretty much sure that was their [CUB’s] effort into having a last ditch attempt at it. Maybe even indicating to the new management that they had resolved the issue when they were in fact just spinning them a yarn as well.”
Ugly, “They had done nothing in other words?”
Another pointed out: “That’s right, they had just redressed the shop window. But it was still the same mannequins wearing the same dresses. They’d told the manager they’d redone the window, which they had, by going in there, pushing over the mannequins, standing them up again and saying they’d been in there and done something”.
“And here [on the community assembly point] of course, we’re pushing on with our upgrades to our protest facilities, the solar panels have gone up, the kitchen is going in [into our shipping containers]. It’s keeping everyone busy, the mural is ready for painting so it’ll be good to see all these things completed.
Ugly, “How about the community interaction”
He continued, “Well… we just went past a shop and a young girl came out and said ‘I’ve stopped drinking that beer. So she’s joined the boycott. It is fairly indicative. I did a ring around the pubs recently, and although the pubs were CUB pubs, they couldn’t join us, they were supportive nonetheless. So it was quite heartening. So yes, community support, there’s plenty out there. The Yarra City Council is standing firm…”
Ugly, “How is it with the local residents?”
“We still see a lot of regulars going past here that stop and have a chat. They’re still very supportive as it is. There is Young St over there on the other side of the river, there is quite a few people in there we’ve met and they’re quite supportive of us.
Ugly, “I’d like you to tell a little more about the community aspect, beyond you CUB55, how do people see that?”
The first replied; “In the case of CUB, if the tactic to reduce worker’s incomes dramatically is their sole goal, and if they are prepared to hold out again with the new management coming in, then they have to sacrifice a lot of their business to do it. They’ll have huge shortfalls in production, they will not be able to make up [production levels] for Xmas & New Year. I can’t understand why the corporate body would do that to their business. It is actually sabotaging their own business. It’s the same sort of thing as me being in there and attacking a machine with a sledge hammer. I would be destroying part of their business. Here we have a management that’s actually destroying part of its own business and not caring. They’re losing market share, they’re not supplying the market properly, the quality is down, it’s disgraceful. The morale inside is below street level. It’s appalling. CUB [present management] are accountable for all that. That’s all their own actions”.
Another who had just come back from interstate joined in. “We are already seeing it with colleagues in other states, with other work sites that are here in Melbourne. They are already facing the same attacks. There’s companies trying to have enterprise agreements cancelled and force workers on to new lower wage structures. This seems to be the push of these last couple of years. This is where industry wants to take people’s wages, they want to take workers to the bottom now. We’re trying to preserve this [our wages & conditions] for our children and grand-children. What’s going to be there for them in terms of a working life if you’re going to have to have four or five jobs just to feed your family each week? That’s ridiculous.
Ugly, “Do people see it as something threatening them, not just you?”
“That’s right. That’s reflected in why we have such universal support. To think that two or three thousand people came out to hear one of our people speak in Darwin last week is indicative that everyone identifies with this issue. Seeing our colleagues march through the streets of Melbourne a few weeks ago, that was another indication that people see this as a fundamental attack on all working people.” He said, “They are showing their support by putting their feet on the pavement with us and marching through the city and saying, No, it is not on”.
Ugly, “Morale here seems to be extremely good.”
Another replied, “Certainly. The morale is just super high. I kind of feel sad for the people who are inside, because we know where their morale is, it’s on the floor of the factory, where as ours is sky-high. We are standing behind our principles, and we’re fighting this tyranny. We can see ourselves winning it. Together that unity amongst people that improves peoples’ morale. When you actively get involved in doing other things, instead of just sitting around a camp-fire, you get building, improving the works here. We are keeping our place clean. We are working with other people in the general community. That all boosts our morale. It couldn’t be higher.
Ugly, “Who do the other people you are mentioning include?”
He continued, “Lots. We get our hot water from a local business, it is just essential, as we are cooking here. It’s so essential. We have good health standards around food and these people are helping us do that”.
“We have foodstuffs donated from local business, now and again we get catered for by local business people delivering complete meals fit for a king. The Yarra City Council is very concerned about this issue and has given us permits, provided barriers etc., to ensure road safety and other matters are properly met. The local residents visit here frequently, some come every day we’re here. Interstate support is very strong, because people see that what has been done to us by CUB could be done to any workers anywhere in Australia, if this tricky business tactic becomes widespread. Who is to say that it won’t be you and yours next affected? Think about that”.
“Finally, we really welcome A B Inbev to Australia. We know they are used to dealing with Unions and their members. We are willing to talk with them asap”.