Unilever in Streets battle on min. conditions

Posted by Nicholas Nakos on 30th October 2017

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has urged Australian consumers to boycott Streets’ ice cream brands.

Streets are the producers of the popular Paddle Pop, Golden Gaytime, Magnum and Cornetto ice creams.

The boycott comes after negotiations between Streets and the company’s owner Unilever about a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement broke down.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) announced the boycott because of a potential 46 per cent pay cut for factory workers in Minto, New South Wales.

Unilever denied that a new agreement would result in a 46 per cent drop in workers’ pay

An in-principle agreement with the unions was reached after 16 months of negotiations but was voted down by employees.

Streets workers oppose reversion to minimum award rates

Unilever has applied to Fair Work Australia to terminate the current enterprise agreement it has in place for its workers.

“Streets and Unilever have decided to hit the nuclear button and given workers no choice,” AMWU Secretary Steve Murphy said.

Unilever Australia & New Zealand general manager of ice cream Anthony Toovey disagreed, saying that if anyone has their finger on the nuclear button it is the union.

“We want to keep making Streets locally but the current situation is just not sustainable,” he said.

The “nuclear option” that Murphy and Toovey refer to is in reference to section 225 of the Fair Work Act.

This allows employers to apply for enterprise Bargaining Agreements that have reached their nominal expiry date to be terminated.

This returns workers to minimum award rates.

This scenario would not be unprecedented in Australia, as the Fair Work Commission has recently granted these termination applications.

Such cases include CFMEU v AGL in 2017 and AMWU v Griffin Coal in 2016.

Australian manufacturing is too expensive

Unilever released a statement announcing that it wished “to create more flexible working conditions and enhance the competitiveness and viability of the factory.”

“It is currently 30 per cent cheaper to import a Magnum from Europe, including 16,000 kilometres of frozen transport rather than make it at Minto,” Unilever said.

Streets ice cream was founded in the 1920s in the Wollongong suburb of Corrimal.

The company launched its popular Paddle Pop ice cream in the 1950s, which is the world’s best-selling ice cream per capita.

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