Sanitarium says union "satanic" and "unclean"!
by Andrew Jackson* In an attack unprecedented in Australian industrial relations history, Sanitarium Foods has warned workers that trade unions will bring destruction of Biblical proportions upon the earth. When the workers promptly rebuffed this nonsense by voting down a non-union EBA, the company sacked the senior delegate at its NSW Central Coast factory. Sanitarium, the giant Australian health food company controlled by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, distributed propaganda to factory workers including references to unions being the work of "satanic agencies". Further, the material calls on workers to "have nothing of do with these (unions)" for they are "unclean things". Workers were also told "the trade unions will be one of the agencies that will bring upon this earth a time of trouble such has not been since the world began". The AMWU (Australian Manufacturing Workers Union) says that while it recognises the rights of anyone — including Sanitarium management — to freely associate themselves with any religious or other belief, their behaviour in this instance was intolerable, offensive and ultimately illegal. "This outrageous abuse of workers' rights of collectivism would be laughable were it not for the serious manner with which the company uses its religious dogma as an excuse to exploit workers", says the AMWU Food Division. "Something is seriously wrong." The anti-union tirade was launched whilst workers were considering a non- union Enterprise Bargaining Agreement being offered by Sanitarium management. Then, just one week after the Agreement was voted down, a senior union delegate was sacked. The workers and the union believe the delegate was sacked because of his leading role in promoting the union at the Sanitarium Central Coast (NSW) factory — where the religious rhetoric mentioned was being forced on the workers. Jennifer Dowell, AMWU Food Division National Secretary, said workers at the Sanitarium factories were shocked by the unjustness of the sacking. "The union and Sanitarium workers are shocked by the bullying tactics being used by Sanitarium management", said Ms Dowell. "We will continue to fight for our members to exercise their legal right to be represented by their union." The union is taking an unfair dismissal case to the Industrial Relations Commission to have John Draper, the delegate involved, reinstated. "I'm hoping to get my job back", said Mr Draper. "The workers are scared, but I have had a lot of support. Even non-union members have rung me to tell me they think it is wrong", he said. "I was the first employee to join the AMWU on the site. Since January 2000, I've been pointing out all the shortcomings of the inferior award we are forced to work under." Late last year Sanitarium workers and members of other unions held solidarity protests at Sanitarium worksites and offices around Australia. The peaceful rally held at Sanitarium's Central Coast office was met by armed security guards and shut gates, and workers reported a sign was posted inside the factory that warned anyone attending the rally would be disciplined.
* * **Acknowledgement to the AMWU News for information used in this article.