- by B A Ford
- The Guardian
- Issue #1955
Thursday 25th March marked four weeks since workers at McCormick Foods factory went on strike late in February. Workers, with the support of the community, have been operating a 24/7 picket out the front of the factory in Clayton South in Victoria.
Workers at McCormick’s are fighting for a meaningful wage increase. It has been five years since their last increase, with bosses pushing a zero per cent wage increase while profits from the production of spices and sauces at the factory are sent to the US.
Business for McCormick Foods has not slowed during the pandemic. In fact, it’s the opposite. Business for McCormick has boomed as demand for fast food sauces went up from Victorians ordering more and more fast food during lockdown. As a result, production at the factory didn’t decrease, but it went up with the hiring of more casuals to meet the demand. McCormick workers waited until COVID-19 cases in Victoria settled before taking industrial action.
On Wednesday 17th March, members of the Communist Party of Australia’s Melbourne Branch went to the picket to show solidarity with the striking workers. We arrived just after the first meeting had taken place between United Workers Union representing the workers and the bosses at McCormick’s. The union had said they would be encouraging a vote no to an offer of three per cent pay rise. Workers were worried that the offer of three per cent would divide the group, despite consensus from workers we spoke to wanting a better deal to cover wage losses over the past five years.
Currently, there are six casuals carrying the work of the factory. These casuals, unlike the older workers with over thirty years of ongoing experience at the factory, are not properly trained in how to use the machinery. One worker expressed sympathy with the maintenance man who will have a headache with the number of machines that he will need to fix after casuals are pushed beyond their capabilities.
The casual staff at McCormick’s, while grateful for the help and training from unionists, are apparently scared of joining the union in case it means the loss of work. If the six casuals who have remained working at the factory for the past few weeks simply came out and joined the picket, the strike would be over. But despite this setback, the striking workers are resolved not to roll over for the bosses.
Five years ago, when their wage increase was set to zero per cent, workers at the factory attempted industrial action. Unfortunately, that action failed, but today the union and the workers are stronger and are putting up a fight. Part of the reason McCormick’s is pushing for wage stagnation is to keep redundancy and retirement payouts low – especially when so many of its workers are older.
But it’s not just about securing meaningful wage increases. The older workers at McCormick’s have worked at the factory for decades. They are now witnessing a trend that has taken off around Australia; the replacement of their secure, full-time work with casual staff. Workers at McCormick’s are also fighting for the future generation of workers.
Make sure to sign the petition for McCormick workers and donate to their strike fund: