Employer argues ice-cream boycott will backfire on workers

by HRD31 Oct 2017
The Australian public are being urged to not purchase Gaytimes, Magnums  and Paddle Pops this summer to help Streets (owned by Unilever) employees win an industrial dispute.

The move follows Unilever’s decision in August to lodge an application with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to terminate the current Enterprise Agreement (EA) at their Minto site in south- west Sydney.

This followed 16 months of negotiations with the Australian Manufacturers Workers Union (AMWU), when they reached a mutual and in-principle agreement which was ultimately voted down by employees.

The union said that if the current EA is terminated it could leave 140 workers at the Minto factory with a pay cut of up to 46%.

They also argued that employees will have their overtime penalties and their redundancy entitlements cut.

In a statement, Unilever said that whatever the FWC decides, they will continue to have discussions with their workers and the union to find a solution that works for everyone and makes the Streets factory more viable.

“We know this is a very difficult time for our employees, but the best way the AMWU can help workers is to shore up their jobs by working with us to make the factory more viable,” said the statement.

“Ultimately if we need to close the factory, everyone is worse off.

“We strongly refute statements made by the union that Unilever will, or may, reduce employee wages by 46%, there is absolutely no truth to these claims.”

The company also said that every Streets ice-cream chosen this summer will help shore up the future of Streets manufacturing in Australia.

“All a boycott will do is hurt workers and local manufacturing,” said the statement.

“We are in the midst of further negotiations with the AMWU and we suggest their efforts are best focused on working constructively with us to find solutions that can work for everyone and help secure the future of our Streets factory.”

Unilever added that the Minto factory lacks the flexibility needed to run a seasonal business and is too costly to run.

For example, Unilever said it’s currently almost 30% cheaper to import a Magnum Classic ice cream made in Europe than to make the same ice cream at Minto, even when you factor in the 16,000 kilometres of frozen transport.

However, Steve Murphy from the AMWU said that if you're running an ice cream factory during an Australian summer “you can't lose money” and that “it's a very profitable site”.

"These workers are left with no other option because Unilever has stopped listening, but to seek the support of the Australian public," he said.

The AMWU also points out that Unilever made $8 billion in profits last year.

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