Approximately 1,400 dairy workers in Australia have scheduled a 48-hour strike commencing on October 18th, seeking higher wages and enhanced working conditions.
The strike, centered in Victoria, will focus on major dairy corporations including Saputo, Fonterra, Peter’s Ice Cream, and Lactalis.
The United Workers Union (UWU) has claimed that the companies have declined to provide “equitable wages” and better working conditions “in the face of increasing living expenses.”
“Workers don’t make this decision lightly,” said Tim Kennedy, national secretary of UWU.
“Dairy workers have been dedicated, especially during the pandemic, with some even agreeing to wage offers as low as 1.5% to support their companies. But with the soaring cost-of-living, they believe it’s time for change,” he added.
“They’re not even asking for a wage increase that matches inflation, just 5% or so that gets them a little closer to being able to keep up with skyrocketing costs.”
The striking workforce is also pursuing provisions for “personal leave that aligns with their 12-hour shift schedule,” leave for community service in the event of natural disasters, and clauses for community engagement that guarantee corporate responsibility to local communities.
According to the UWU statement, Fonterra in New Zealand saw its profits increase by 170% to NZ$1.6 billion ($946 million) in the 2023 fiscal year, yet the employees have not reaped the rewards of this growth.
The union has reported that a combined total of 869 employees will go on strike at Saputo locations in Allansford, Cobram, Leongatha, Kiewa, and Laverton. Peter’s Ice Cream will have 205 participants in the strike action, while 22 employees at Lactalis’ Longwarry site and 322 across three Fonterra sites will also join the strike.
Kennedy added, “This is more than a wage tug-of-war; it’s about safeguarding the heartbeat of our regional communities.”