Delegates from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Bluewater Seafarers Commission joined a guard of honour today for the 55 maintenance workers from Carlton & United Breweries who marched back in the gate after a six-month dispute.
After a mass boycott of popular brands including Victoria Bitter, Melbourne Bitter, Carlton Draught and Crown Lager, members from the AMWU and ETU returned to work at 0630 this morning.
The CUB 55 head back inside the gate
In June 2016, the company sacked the 55 maintenance workers and brought in non-union replacement workers.
The sacked workers were given the option of applying for their jobs through a new contractor – doing the same job for up to 65 per cent less pay.
According to the AMWU website, management of CUB-InBev buckled to all of the union’s demands: all workers able to go back to work (should they choose) on their original pay and conditions, a guarantee of no involuntary redundancies and any new contractor must meet the existing conditions. The temporary non-union workforce employed by the company will soon depart.
MUA West Australian Branch Secretary addressed the crowd this morning after the MUA provided support at both a branch and national office level over the past six months.
"On behalf of the Maritime Union of Australia I am very honoured and very proud to be standing here today,” Cain said.
"Three months ago I was standing in the same position and it’s a testament not only to the 55 but every trade unionist in this country.
"So you need to go away from here and talk it up, you need to go away from here and explain what it means to fight and not just block the joint up.
"Understand the tactics that we used here because they wanted us to block this joint up so they could sue the ETU and AMWU for millions of dollars.
"Six months later we are standing here today and these men and women have got their jobs back
"How good is it, how good does it feel?
"It doesn’t get any better than this and once again, on behalf of the Maritime Union, on behalf of the trade union movement, on behalf of the 55 workers, we’ll always be there alongside you."
MUA and CFMEU officials at today's guard of honour
AMWU State Secretary Steve Dargavel paid tribute to the CUB 55, the entire union movement, and the support of the general public.
“The members on the picket are the ones that held this together and their strength and endurance has been tremendous. But the support flowing in from fellow union members across the entire movement was critical, as was the work and support from friends and supporters in the general public.
“The Boycott Campaign took on a life of its own and this was a huge lynchpin to our success. We want to thank every person in Australia that chose not to drink CUB as a sign of their solidarity for the rights of these workers.
“We’re delighted that there’s now no beer off limits over the summer season – but even more importantly, that these guys stood strong, and that they got the result they deserved!”
AMWU Delegate Chris Brown became one of the public faces of the battle. He says the mood on the picket line was strong throughout the dispute, with workers confident they would get a positive result.
“Over the months morale stayed high,” Chris says. “It was really tough, but the support rolling in from union members and the everyday public was extraordinary.”
The AMWU says the battle with CUB wasn’t just about the sacked 55 workers.
This dispute has exposed big flaws in the Fair Work system that allows sham ‘Trojan Horse’ agreements to undermine genuine agreements with real workers.
In the case of the CUB maintenance workers, an agreement struck by a company with just three casual workers in Perth two years ago was used as the basis of the deal between CUB and the contracted labour hire firm, Programmed Skilled.
An investigation by the ABC Radio program Background Briefing tracked down the worker who signed the original Enterprise Agreement – a 23 year-old who only worked for the company for six days, and who readily admitted that he didn’t understand what he was signing.
“It’s pretty blurry; I didn’t really know much about it,” he told Background Briefing. “I just sort of signed it because they asked me to do it."
Using this dodgy agreement, Programmed Skilled was able to pitch for the CUB work promising to dramatically reduce labour costs.
As it turned out, Programmed Skilled bit off more than it could chew. By the end of August it decided to pull out of the agreement with CUB.
But instead of reinstating the workers on their former pay and conditions, CUB kept the plant running on a minimum maintenance schedule.
But the CUB maintenance workers received enormous support from trade unionists and everyday beer drinkers around the country.
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.
The good guys won in the end.
State Secretary of the ETU Victoria Branch Troy Gray Congratulates the CUB 55 on their campaign win