Written by Andy Young, editor The Shout
Carlton & United Breweries’ (CUB) dispute with the Electrical Trades Union and Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union is rumbling on, after thousands of protesters marched through Melbourne last week.
The dispute centres around 55 workers, who the unions claim were sacked without notice by CUB, a claim the brewer said was “absolute rubbish”.
A spokesperson for CUB said: “Claims CUB sacked 55 workers are false. CUB has not employed maintenance workers since 2009, we changed contract providers earlier this year giving the company and their people six months’ notice before the end of the contract. In January unions were also told of the contract ending and were in engaged in discussions about what alternatives could be considered.
“We believe this dispute is about unions wanting to enforce their power over an external company and the wages being offered – the contract roles advertised range between $70,000 and $120,000 before overtime – above award rates.
“Anyone losing their job is not an issue to be taken lightly – that’s why the former contractor and their people were given six months’ notice of the end of the contract and people were paid redundancies by their employer.”
The unions are adamant that the 55 workers were sacked and that CUB then “invited them to reapply for their jobs with a 65 per cent pay cut”.
Dave McKinley, ETU assistant secretary: “CUB has built its brand on blue collar sweat, but today it is leaving a very bitter aftertaste. To turn its back on its unionised workforce is deep treachery.”
AMWU state secretary, Tim Ayres, added: “CUB’s behaviour in Melbourne is despicable. You can’t extol Australian workers in your ads while sacking workers in your factory. This company is completely disingenuous.”
The unions have also called on trade union members to “reconsider supporting all CUB brands” adding that the industrial action is putting pressure on CUB’s supply.
In response CUB has said that it appreciates the support it has had from its customers, despite the calls for a boycott and that supply was not a concern in the run up to footy finals and the warmer weather.
CUB’s marketing director Richard Oppy said: “Supply is not an issue for us, we have got three breweries up and running, not just Abbotsford, but there’s Yatala and Cascade and they are doing a fantastic job in meeting the demands and the forecasts of the sales team. Until further notice everything is on track.
“I’ve seen a few notices [relating to boycotting CUB brands for the football finals] and if we lose one customer or one sale, well that’s one too many for me. So it is disappointing if anyone feels the need to boycott, but obviously it is part of business. We started outsourcing over six years ago, we put it out to tender like we do with all our suppliers and it made commercial sense to move to a different supplier, and obviously that has upset some people.”
Yesterday’s rally in Melbourne was addressed by Victoria’s Industrial Relations Minister Natalie Hutchins, who said: “To let this company get away with what they’ve done to these workers would be a travesty for people not to be able to stand up and have their say.”
She added: “This is an extremely important brand to Victoria and if they think they can treat people with such disdain and disrespect and not feel the wrath of the consumer population in Victoria, then they need to think again.
“I say to CUB, have a good look at yourself and what you’re doing to your workers.”
Those comments have been criticised by Victoria’s Opposition Leader Matthew Guy who said: “This is Victoria under Daniel Andrews where the Industrial Relations Minister picks sides rather than mediating and solving disputes.
“The Andrews Labor Government is so fractured that even a supposedly impartial minister will take sides in an industrial relations dispute just so they can build a union power base.”