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To: The Dairy Industry

I support dairy workers!

The largest dairy strike in living memory has ended after 1400 dairy workers won secure, sustainable jobs and a cost-of-living pay increase, helping to keep the dairy industry as the lifeblood of regional communities.

The two-day strikes last week at 13 sites disrupted supplies of dairy goods, limits were imposed on milk in some supermarkets and farmers reported hundreds of thousands of litres of milk tipped down the drain.

A six-day strike of 300 dairy workers from Saturday was avoided yesterday (EDS: Thursday) when major processor Fonterra reached an in-principle deal with United Workers Union delegates after protracted talks.

The vast bulk of the 1400 dairy workers won a 5 per cent pay rise in the first year, going some way to address the cost-of-living crisis as workers face persistent inflation above 5 per cent and the prospect of yet another mortgage rate rise.

These workers’ first-year pay rise doubles the 2.5 per cent dairy workers received as they helped their companies out during the pandemic.

“These are working people in regional areas who have shown great courage in standing up to large multinational dairy companies,” United Workers Union National Secretary Tim Kennedy said today.

“They were fighting not just for themselves, but for secure jobs in regional communities where every dollar they spend goes back into those communities.

“Their fight also gave a national platform in the battle for profitable companies to pay a fair share of their profits to help workers address the cost-of-living crisis.

“Dairy worker pay rises of up to 14 per cent over three years dwarf previous company offers as low as 8.25 per cent before workers went on strike.

“Also importantly, workers have won measures that are important to them and their communities.

“These measures include five days of paid emergency services leave at both Saputo and Fonterra, allowing volunteers to fight natural disasters occurring in their communities.”

In the case of Fonterra’s talks yesterday, delegates will be putting to dairy workers an offer of 5 per cent in the first year, 4 per cent in the second year and 3 per cent in the third year, up from 10.5 per cent across three years before the strike.

The offer includes improved personal leave and shift allowances.

Mr Kennedy said he hoped the secure regional jobs won by dairy workers would support a dairy industry that is in crisis, with milk production crashing from 11 billion litres in 2019 to 8 billion litres now.

“The strike action has shown dairy workers are prepared to stand up and fight for their place in the dairy industry, and the importance of the dairy industry in their local communities,” Mr Kennedy said.

“We have been working on longer-term planning about how every player – the dairy farmers, the processors, the community and the workers – can be part of a sustainable dairy industry and make sure the dairy industry remains the heartbeat of regional communities.

“We think part of the answer is making sure multinational companies are listening to their regional communities, and keeping their connections to the local farming industry.

“To do that, we also think it’s important to ensure the price of milk remains fair, and that means challenging the power of the big supermarket duopoly to set low prices when milk supply is high.

“We are also calling on the Federal and State Governments to include our voice at the table when major issues relating to the dairy industry are considered.”

Australia’s dairy industry is navigating an unprecedented series of challenges from climate crises to economic uncertainties. We cannot afford a business-as-usual approach; meaningful change is needed urgently to secure the future of the industry and safeguard the livelihoods of its workers and their regional communities.

Workers want a fair wage to ensure the future of their community. This is part of a plan to rectify the crisis in the industry with low wage increases, dwindling milk supply, climate change and more. Workers need fair wages and a seat at the table to help address this crisis.

We, the undersigned, call upon the state and federal governments, industry stakeholders, and the Australian community to back a comprehensive plan for the dairy industry that focuses on four key areas:

Worker Representation
Include dairy processing workers in all discussions and decision-making processes. their expertise and input are crucial for addressing the issues effectively.

Climate Action and Sustainability
Invest in research and development for sustainable and efficient manufacturing. Lead the way on sustainability and be accountable to the goals they set.

Government Investment and Fair Market Practices
Commit government investment to make sure dairy farming remains attractive and profitable. Prevent the sale of Saputo dairy plants to Coles, as it exacerbates the supermarket duopoly's control and hampers fair pricing.

Fair Pricing and Job Security
Ensure milk is sold at a fair price, profitable for farmers and affordable for consumers, throughout the supply chain into the future regardless of milk supply. Strengthen job security by converting long-term casual and fixed-term workers to permanent positions.

We believe this plan offers a balanced approach to dealing with the multi-faceted problems plaguing the dairy industry. It’s essential that we act now; otherwise, we risk losing this cornerstone of Australia’s agricultural community and potentially affordable fresh milk in Australia forever.

By signing this petition, we collectively urge our elected representatives and industry leaders to adopt this plan in collaboration with the Union and other stakeholders. Only then can we hope to secure the future of Australia’s dairy industry and protect the people who dedicate their lives to it.

Why is this important?

The dairy industry is currently facing a crisis. From fluctuating milk prices and environmental challenges, the industry is at a crossroads. As they face these challenges, workers, who are on the frontline, must be given a seat at the table. Their insights, experiences, and dedication are invaluable in shaping the future of the dairy sector.

The plummeting levels of milk production in Australia to a 30-year low is not just a crisis for the dairy industry, but a pressing issue for the working class and the nation at large. Skyrocketing prices for dairy products disproportionately affect everyday Australians, especially those on fixed or lower incomes. Moreover, the dwindling milk supply has a direct impact on job security for union members who are dairy workers—both farmers and those employed in processing plants. If the industry falters, it's the workers who'll bear the brunt, facing lay-offs and financial instability, further undermining already vulnerable regional communities where many of our members live and work.

This dire situation demands that union voices be front and centre in shaping any solutions. State and federal governments must consult with union representatives to invest urgently in the industry's future. The challenges of climate change, which affect both supply and worker conditions, and the unfair pricing dictated by supermarket duopolies like Coles and Woolworths, require a united, collective response. Now, more than ever, we need to mobilise to secure fair pay, conditions, and job security for our members. Our union is committed to fighting for these rights, and we urge all stakeholders to act before the industry reaches a point of no return.

Victoria, Australia

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL




2023-11-03 11:48:40 +1100

Petition is successful with 2,032 signatures

2023-10-18 10:15:37 +1100

1,000 signatures reached

2023-10-17 20:15:55 +1100

500 signatures reached

2023-10-17 18:32:38 +1100

100 signatures reached

2023-10-17 18:26:35 +1100

50 signatures reached

2023-10-17 18:24:23 +1100

25 signatures reached

2023-10-17 16:41:05 +1100

10 signatures reached