Sauce workers’ anger boils over

About 100 workers are on indefinite strike at McCormick sauces factory in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton South over company attempts to take away long-won conditions, such as leave, and its refusal to offer a pay rise in a new enterprise agreement.

Workers, who make the sauces and spices for McDonald’s, KFC, Hungry Jacks and Nando, haven’t had a pay rise in five years. If they accepted the company’s offer that would extend to eight years or more.

Their anger over the company’s lack of respect, given they worked through COVID-19 lockdowns, was clear. One placard read, “McCormick’s offer is no sweet, all sour!”

The strikers, members of the United Workers Union, chanted “union power” with clenched fists raised. Picketers added, “What’s disgusting? Union busting! What’s outrageous? Frozen wages!”

McCormick, based in the US, is among the 1000 largest companies based on revenue as compiled by the business magazine Fortune. It made a profit of $US747 million in 2020.

The strikers held a Community Support Day on Thursday 4 March, one week into the dispute. Among those attending were ACTU secretary Sally MacManus and Jess Walsh, a Victorian Labor senator.

McManus told picketers, “You are on the frontline of the fightback. This is how we win. We stand behind you.”

Walsh said, “McCormick—respect your workers. There is power in your union. We will win,” to the strikers’ applause.

Guba, a UWU delegate, said the company had plenty of money and supplied major fast food outlets.

The company is trying to keep production going with casual labour and is happily spending more on extra security guards.

Another delegate, April, said, “We are angry because they want to change everything, cut everything. They are using COVID-19 as an excuse to do this.”

Udara, also a delegate, said, “They want to cut our penalty rates and loadings. Yes, we are angry. We want to pay our bills and not have nothing after our pay.”

The picketers chanted, “One day longer, one day stronger,” in a message to the company that they would last one day longer than it.

Visit the 24-hour picket line at 63 Fairbank Road, Clayton South.

By Tom Orsag

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