Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Crisis in our fruit and vegetable industry

Vanguard August 2013 p. 5

 Growers can win if they organise and fight hard and don’t rely solely on their politicians and so-called ‘official’ growers’ organisations.

Active many years ago, committees to demand jobs were involved in many struggles to save jobs and oppose factory closures. Whenever the people united and fought hard they were successful. The campaign to oppose banana imports was an example and still holds good today.

One example of collusion and betrayal was the closure of the Letona factory in Leeton N.S.W. many years ago. This factory employed hundreds of workers in the cannery and was grower controlled and had exports to 24 overseas markets. Management unions and the state Labor government did nothing to keep it alive. They blamed the bank. This was far from the truth. In my discussion with the bank manager in Leeton, the company called it on. After closure some managers went to work with SPC and SPC ended up with the export customers – without a doubt the enemy within at work.

Some years later the plan to import apples and pears into Australia was bitterly opposed by growers and workers, especially in the Goulburn Valley. A town rally was organised and the town of Shepparton actually shut down for half a day. To my knowledge it has never happened before anywhere in Australia. The plans to import were set aside and defeated for the time being especially when unions agreed not to touch the cargo on the ships if farmers and workers came to the docks to support them.

Realising they could not win this round the foreign money and its lackeys decided to take over or buy SPC which they did after convincing the major shareholders to sell. The buyer, Coca-Cola Amital was successful. This was the start of the demise of our processing industry thanks to the stupidity and greed of some shareholders. They have a lot to answer for.

(Above: 150 SPC Ardmona workers sacked following closure of the Mooroopna plant in August 2011)

The opportunity to build and organise another rally is alive and well. People are angry and given leadership they will come forward, especially when workers take a leading role.

(Above: July 12, 2013 and Shepaprton workers rally to save local fruit processing industry)

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