The Guardian May 30, 2001


Players Biscuits lockout workers

by Dave Hauser

On April 23 the manager at Players Biscuits in Miranda (NSW) decided to 
lock out its workforce, members of the National Union of Workers (NUW), in 
an effort to entice them to sign up for a substandard enterprise agreement. 
He claimed that they not approaching their negotiations for a new agreement 
with realistic aims.

NUW delegate Waffa Dargham said, "All we wanted was a decent two-year 
agreement so that we would know where we stand".

Waffa outlined the course of action that the company had taken against its 
250 employees.

The company's first offer of 9.4 per cent over three years was way off 
course considering that the parent company, Snack Brands Australia has a 
similar operation at Smithfield where the workers were only recently given 
14 per cent over two years.

"We only want what our other members were given, the same work for the same 
pay without any loss of conditions", Waffa told "The Guardian" on the 
picket line outside the company's direct to the public store.

A cursory glance at the position the company had adopted made me suspicious 
of their intent. This was not a company going bad as the facility had just 
received an $8 million upgrade in robotics and were able to import the 
technical support and labour installation from Germany to modernise the 
plant.

Waffa agreed: "You have to be suspicious if they have just spent that sort 
of money and only now say that the workforce costs are too expensive to 
maintain".

It seems that the general manager, Richard Mare, who has less than 12 
months experience in a production facility, but wait for it, was an 
accountant with AV Jennings previously, has decided that an increase of six 
per cent per annum is way over the top and unrealistic for the 250 
employees.

On top of all this (no there are no steak knives) he wants the ability to 
remove any worker who cannot pass a literacy test. In an environment where 
there are a great deal of migrants who have no problem speaking the 
language but have never had the opportunity to obtain schooling to enable 
them to read and write, this is indeed a dirty move. Sam Dargham, an 
employee with 18 years experience who now holds a supervisory position is 
one of these people, and he just happens to be the husband of the union 
delegate. I'm sure the readers can draw their own conclusions.

Still the members are standing their ground. "I've received letters at my 
home, I"ve been standing on this picket line for three weeks in the cold 
and the rain, and I know that the union position is not unreasonable 
considering that our fellow workers at Snack Brands received the same 
conditions that we have asked for", said delegate Dennis Sullivan.

"I'm sure if they can pay a mob like Kirkland Leadership (consultants) who 
knows how much to come in and look the joint over for 18 months and submit 
a report that no one has seen, then I think it's reasonable to pay us for 
the work we and they both know will be done", said Mr Sullivan.

Good luck comrades.

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