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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

AMWU Agreement with Nestlé Australia Sets Limits on Casual Hiring, Advances Union Rights

Posted to the IUF website 07-Sep-2004

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The IUF-affiliated Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has signed a new national three-year collective agreement with Nestlé Confectionery Australia that significantly increases union rights and sets strict controls on the use of temporary employment. The agreement, signed on August 26, covers over 600 confectionery workers in 3 plants.

The new agreement caps a one-year mobilization by the union at enterprise- and national-level to build an effective organizing and bargaining strategy to roll back the growing use of non-permanent labour sourced from labour hire firms. When direct permanent employment at Nestlé was identified as a key goal in the new collective agreement, the union built support through meetings and continuous information sharing for a bargaining strategy backed up by the capacity for collective action across the three sites.

The new agreement sets a limit of 15% of the total number of normal (non-overtime) hours that can be worked by non-permanent employees. The total of normal hours will be reviewed every three months and any hours over the limit will be converted to permanent jobs according to a formula incorporated into the agreement. Prior to the agreement there were cases of casuals at the plants working up to 23% of total normal hours.

The agreement also significantly expands union rights at the workplace. Delegates committees composed of elected union representatives are to be established at each of the three enterprises. The agreement specifies that management must meet regularly with the committees at least once every three months. Union representatives on the delegates committees are paid for time attending meetings as well as for spent consulting amongst themselves and with the members before and after the meetings. The committees must be informed and consulted on changes within the enterprises. The agreement also specifies allowances for union education leave and guarantees the union's right of access to the production sites.

Fully paid parental leave of 12 weeks was included for the first time in the agreement, a particularly significant achievement as Australian law contains no provisions for mandatory paid parental leave.

Members also won an annual 5% wage increase over the three years of the agreement, an amount slightly above average increases in the food sector in Australia. Long service leave (earned after 10 years employment) increases from eight to 13 weeks.

Jenny Dowell, Assistant National Secretary of the Food Division of the AMWU and IUF Vice-President, has said that “everyone is committed to the eradication of the labour hire firms from the Nestlé Confectionery sites and building towards increased direct permanent employment.” The AMWU sees the agreement an important step forward in securing the guaranteed rights, better conditions and reductions in the use of non-permanent employment as set out in the IUF Global Declaration of Rights of Nestlé Employees (Manila Declaration)

The AMWU has an ongoing campaign to eliminate contracting out in the food industry, and has secured contract gains as well at the transnationals Simplot and Unilever.