A delegation of Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) workers from Newcastle have driven nearly 1,000km to the northern Victorian city of Echuca this week to deliver thousands of dollars raised for Parmalat workers who have been locked out of their workplace since January 18.
Around 65 workers were locked out indefinitely from the Parmalat dairy processing facility at Echuca after the workers rejected the company’s attempts to impose major cuts to their wages and working conditions.
MUA Newcastle Branch representative Jake Field said he had been closely following the dispute, with many of the workers from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and Electrical Trades Union (ETU) camping on site.
“We’re seeing this more and more – greedy employers trying to cut the pay and conditions of their workforce, refusing to bargain in good faith and then locking them out,” Field said.
“The Parmalat dispute is similar to the recent Carlton & United Breweries dispute where maintenance workers held out for 182 days, eventually walking back inside the gate after originally being told they were sacked and would have to re-apply for their jobs through a new contractor for up to 65 per cent less pay.
“Maritime workers have had to put up with atrocious behaviour from employers at Hutchison, Patrick Stevedores and onboard the CSL Melbourne and MV Portland – workers have had a gutful and we’re here to make ourselves heard.
“We’re also putting our money where our mouth is – with about $3,500 being donated by members across Svitzer linesmen and tugs, Newcastle Stevedores and the Newcastle coal loader, the dredge 'David Allen' and MUA Veterans.”
Field also called on local Federal Nationals MP and former AFL footballer Damian Drum to come down to the picket line and meet with the workers.
“From what we gather, Damian Drum hasn’t been down there yet,” Field said.
“If a bunch of blokes from Newcastle can drive 1,000 km to be there surely he can drive across his electorate to meet with constituents – we’re even bringing a footy so he can teach us a few skills and have a bit of kick to kick.
“This dispute needs to be fixed and the workers need to go back to work on decent pay and conditions so they can pay their mortgages and feed their families.”
You can donate to the workers and their families here
or join their Facebook group and send them a message of support here