Workers at McCormick Foods in Clayton, Victoria, are entering their sixth week of strike action. They have not had a pay rise in five years.
The strike started in late February when the new management of McCormick offered an insulting 0 per cent pay rise and threatened to cut conditions, including penalty rates and overtime.
Last week, the company upped its offer to 3 per cent a year but refused to budge on conditions. Workers voted down the offer by 80 votes to seven, with all United Workers Union members and eight non-union workers voting No.
McCormick is attempting to continue production with the remaining six non-union casuals on-site.
The 100 workers at the site make the sauces and spices for fast food giants including McDonald’s, KFC, Hungry Jacks and Nandos.
Workers remain in a combative mood, and are holding out for 3 per cent and all conditions preserved. At a community rally last week in support of the McCormick strikers, the crowd covered the fences with messages of Easter solidarity, and chanted, “One day longer, one day stronger!”
Workers spoke about giving decades of their lives to the company and feeling betrayed. Yana, a delegate and migrant from Croatia who has worked for McCormick Foods for 18 years, said, “I’m fighting for respect and to protect our conditions.”
Another worker, Shane, has been there for 17 years, brought his son Jasper to the rally, who requires expensive medical treatment. He said the company had made hundreds of millions of profits but “can’t spare a crumb for us. All they have to do is say yes”. He urged fellow workers to “stick together, united, and force the company to make the right decision”.
McCormick CEO Lawrence Kurzius raked in a tidy $US20 million last year. McCormick itself posted a $US747 million profit.
Wozza, a worker of 21 years, said it was “very disappointing that we’ve been forced to stand out here for five weeks and disrespected for five years”.
The Victorian Trades Hall Council reported that more than $75,000 had been raised through a chuffed.com fundraiser.
Visit the 24-hour picket at McCormick Foods, 63 Fairbank Road, Clayton South.
By Jason Wong and Sarah Thorne