Meat workers at Aldi supplier Bindaree Beef in Inverell in northern NSW have threatened to walk off the job on Wednesday, October 24, 2018 after months of negotiations with company management concerning their pay.
Management and employee groups continued closed-door negotiations on Tuesday hoping for an agreement to be reached at the eleventh hour.
The workers are demanding a pay rise equivalent to the increase in the cost of living, however Bindaree Beef has refused to budge since their agreement to a 3.5 per cent increase to the base rate in July (this is the absolute minimum increase required by the Fair Work Commission’s recent Award review).
The company is continuing to bargain with the workers and agreed to further 2 per cent increases per annum over the coming years.
“We will continue to negotiate in good faith,” said Todd Newton, Business Manager of Human Resources and Assett Management of Bindaree Beef.
“We believe that we have offered a sustainable agreement. We’re here for the long-term and have been around for 23 years and want to be around for the next 23 years. Don’t forget that we’re in the middle of a massive drought.”
The Meat Workers Union (AMIEU Newcastle and Northern NSW) do not believe that the increases are viable and released a statement that “workers are struggling, but the company refuses to help them.”
There is concern that the 3.5 per cent increase that the union estimates at little over $23 per week is not enough to cover the huge hike of utilities over the last twelve months with electricity prices having risen by 10.4 per cent, gas prices by 7.1 per cent, and transport costs rose by 5.2 per cent.
“Our members are absolutely disappointed that they have had to resort to this,” said AMIEU Newcastle & Northern NSW Secretary Grant Courtney. “These are hard-working people from rural NSW who just want to do their jobs and get back to spending time with their families.”
“However, with an overwhelming 97 per cent of our Bindaree Beef members voting to approve this industrial action, it’s clear that enough is enough. Bindaree Beef and its billionaire boss are desperately out of touch with what their workers need.
"Bills are rising and rising, and it's simply not good enough that even after months of negotiations, Bindaree Beef still refuses to put a genuine wage offer on the table that even keeps up with increases in the cost of living."
The Inverell Times has been told by union officials that Bindaree Beef workers are “facing uncertainty and are worried about their families and their mortgages.”
The highest-paid Bindaree Beef workers are slaughtermen, carcuss graders and others that receive a base rate that is $769.80 per week (gross), according to figures listed on their union’s site. Follow-on labourers and other employees earn less than that at $718.85 before company incentives are added.
The company, however, points out that there are workers who just last week managed to gross $1,600 per week after productivity incentives were added to their salaries.
The union refutes these amounts and is disappointed by the company’s position bearing in mind that Hui Wing Mau is Australia’s 8th richest man, with an estimated net worth of $7.2 billion. In 2017, the property tycoon acquired a 51 per cent stake in the Bindaree Beef operation for more than $150 million.
Bindaree Beef has a highly profitable arrangement with Aldi supermarkets, supplying high-quality, retail-ready meat to consumers across the country.
Meetings between Bindaree Beef and worker delegates are continuing throughout the day in an effort to break the deadlock before hundreds of workers take action on Wednesday.
INDUSTRIAL ACTION DETAILS:
11:00 AM on Wednesday October 24 2018
The park on the corner of Gwydir Highway and Campbell Street, Inverell (opposite Coles)
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