National Foods no closer to an amicable deal with farmers

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 23rd October 2009

Talks between National Foods and Tasmanian farmers broke down yesterday, with an end to the dispute seemingly further away than ever before.

National Foods said they were ‘bitterly disappointed’ with the failure to reach an amicable agreement with the Tasmanian Suppliers Collective Bargaining Group in negotiations yesterday.

The dairy and juice group said the farmers walked out on what they believed to be a good deal, while farmers maintain they are being treated with contempt.

“We recognise that we could have managed our farmer relations more proactively in the past and we came to the table today genuinely committed to resolving this issue and put a generous offer on the table,” Conor O’Malley, Group Executive Corporate Service and Logistics at National Foods, advised. “In that context we are very surprised that the Collective Bargaining Group have walked away from the negotiating table.”

National Foods said they offered a milk price of almost ten cents per litre above the market, at 37.5 cents over the year including the value of a $1.1 million assistance package to “help Tasmanian farmers through this particularly difficult period”.

“To go significantly further would seriously undermine the competitiveness of our business,” Mr O’Malley suggested. “We would potentially lose market share, an outcome that is neither in our interests or those of the farmers and would have serious implications for our 500 Tasmanian employees.”

“We know that dairy farmers are doing it tough as a result of the oversupply, the slump in the international price of dairy commodities and the very wet weather of the past few weeks and we took all these factors into account in re-working our offer and putting together a $1.1 million assistance package.”

Farmers, meanwhile, are upset with the offer, labelling it ‘contemptuous’.

“We’re absolutely incensed at the contemptuous treatment that has been doled out to us,” Phil Beattie, of the farmers’ bargaining group, told the ABC.