Australia: Union negotiates cost-cutting deal at Streets ice-cream


Australia: Union negotiates cost-cutting deal at Streets ice-cream

Richard Phillips

25 November 2017

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) has negotiated a new cost-cutting deal at the Unilever-owned Streets ice-cream plant in Minto, south-western Sydney, after a 16-month dispute over an enterprise agreement.

AMWU state secretary Steve Murphy hailed the agreement as “an enormous victory for fairness” and called off the union’s token consumer boycott of the brand’s popular ice-creams. “Christmas has come early for Streets workers and their supporters,” he declared.

Murphy’s claims were repeated by Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus who said the deal was a “huge victory” against “one of the world’s biggest multinationals.”

These claims are bogus. The enterprise agreement, which was negotiated in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in recent weeks, satisfies Unilever’s demands for lower costs and increased labour flexibility.

Streets management, which had threatened to close the plant if its demands were not accepted, immediately praised the new arrangements. A company spokesperson told the media that it would “deliver significant improvements in the flexibility of the factory.”

Although the more than 140 AMWU members at the Streets plant are reported to have given “in-principle” support at a meeting Wednesday night, the union and the company are observing a code of silence about the specifics of the deal which will be subject to a formal ballot by workers next week.

The sketchy details about the agreement are no accident. Like previous enterprise deals at the Streets plant, which operates round the clock with rotating shifts, the new agreement will open the way for further speedups and cuts to…

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