The Guardian • Issue #2072

Shame, Inghams, shame!

Workers fight back

United Workers Union rally.

Photo: Supplied by the United Workers Union.

Around 1000 workers at Inghams chickens have been on strike, demanding better wages and conditions. Their demand for a 6 per cent pay increase was met with resistance by the employer who offered a 3.5 per cent rise, which is less than the cost of living. Instead in a show of arrogance Inghams’ CEO Andrew Reeves gave himself a 9 per cent increase on top of his $1.1 million annual salary. This was a slap in the face of the workforce; mainly low paid female migrant workers who earn about $25 per hour. Their demand amounts to $1.50 per hour. Shame Inghams Shame!

The big lesson in this dispute is that workers are prepared to fight back. Members of both unions, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the United Workers Union (UWU) have built their unions in their workplace; they joined in solidarity at the picket line after voting to take protected industrial action.

The feeling at the picket line which started at midnight on Thursday night, 21st September was of militancy. The Filipino, East Timorese, Burmese, African and Afghani striking workers danced reggaeton and chanted outside their workplace in Perth, WA.

Workers are confident that their will to stay out until their demands are met will deliver a victory. On Monday 25th September, an in-principle agreement was reached in South Australia which was welcomed by striking workers in WA.

The pressure is on. The thousands of chickens that get slaughtered every week (up to 200 thousand in WA alone, and double that amount in SA) are supplied to places like KFC. The AFL Grand Final is fast approaching this weekend and the demand for several thousand buckets of KFC  for the event means workers must be back at work.

Despite a police presence at the picket line the striking workers were able to speak to their coworkers who presented for work, urging them to join the picket line. Many of them joined the picketers at the 4 am early shift. The unions involved have done a fantastic job by organising a good delegate structure and building solidarity on and off the job.

At the time of writing this report, the workers and their unions have forced Inghams back to the bargaining table where a proposal that meets the workers’ demands was put to the workers to consider. They have won the dispute, bravo!

Workers who stick together, win together. Congratulations!

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