Electrical Trades Union (ETU) Victorian Secretary Troy Gray has thanked the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) for its assistance during the marathon six-month dispute to win back the jobs of the CUB 55 while the MUA, in turn, praised the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) for its important role.
Maintenance workers from the ETU and Australian Manufacturers Union (AMWU) walked back inside the gate at the Carlton & United Breweries plant in Abbotsford yesterday, 182 days after they were told by management that they were sacked and would have to apply for their jobs through a new contractor – doing the same job for up to 65 per cent less pay.
Gray said while the boycott of popular brands including Victoria Bitter, Melbourne Bitter, Carlton Draught and Crown Lager had undoubtedly played a role, so too had the broader union movement by providing financial and strategic support.
"There ’s a handful of unions we know we can trust and we’re proud to go shoulder to shoulder with the MUA in any dispute,” Gray told delegates at the MUA Bluewater Seafarers Commission in Melbourne.
“The union movement has been under sustained attack and we need to talk about how to get a bit of ground back.”
Gray named the MUA as one of the major financial supporters of the campaign and said the CUB dispute had brought out the best in the union movement and the worst from employers.
"CUB has breweries in Tasmania, Queensland and Abbotsford and had been Aussie owned for 100 years until it was sold to SAB Miller, a mainly South-African family-owned company in 2009,” he said.
"SAB Miller makes $4 billion a year in profit - this not a struggling manufacturer.
"CUB is a cash machine. Did you know that if you pay $50 for a slab – it costs $2.36 to produce?
"There is an $18.00 tax component but you’re getting an idea how much money they make.
“And the reward for its workers? They were brought into a room and told they were terminated."
CUB used a contracted labour hire firm, Programmed Skilled, who in turn used a little-known agreement struck with just three casual workers in Perth two years ago as the basis of the new deal being offered.
After pressure from unions and the broader community, Programmed Skilled pulled out of the agreement with CUB by the end of August.
But instead of reinstating the workers on their former pay and conditions, CUB's new owners InBev pushed ahead.
A campaign to get consumers to boycott CUB products took off.
CUB-Free Grand Final day parties were held right around the country, and people pledged to have a CUB Free Melbourne Cup.
With each passing week more people became aware of the boycott campaign.
The campaign was ready to continue with a CUB Free Christmas and CUB Free Summer when the company called a truce.
"We know the production loss,” Gray said.
"At peak, CUB pumps out 1.2 million boxes of beer per week and through the dispute the average was 500,000 and in the worst week was 180,000 slabs.
"But the real damage is when they can’t meet demand and we all know that when the sun comes out people drink more beer."
"In the end , the unions have brought all workers under the one document and they have better terms and conditions."
MUA WA Branch Secretary Chris Cain paid tribute to MUA National Secretary and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) President Paddy Crumlin.
“Paddy Crumlin opened the door internationally for the Teamsters to back these guys in,” Cain said.
"They have 1.8 million members. It could never have been won without the international campaign facilitated by the ITF."