Into the eighth week and the 55 sacked Carlton United Brewery (CUB) Melbourne, maintenance workers and their unions, the ETU and AMWU, are standing strong in their long fight to stop the multinational’s attacks on job security and hard won wages and conditions.
CUB workers, unions and supporters are fighting the effects of corporate imperialist globalisation – casualisation, crushing unions and workers’ rights, slashing jobs, wages and conditions and removing any obstacles that stand in its way of increasing the exploitation.
It’s no coincidence that the attacks on brewery workers come at a time of the imminent takeover of owners of CUB, multinational SABMiller, by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest beer (and some soft drinks) brewing monopoly.
On 10 June CUB sacked its entire highly skilled and experienced maintenance workforce of 55 fitters and electricians, including 5 apprentices, at the multinational’s Abbotsford (Melbourne) brewery. A new labour contractor was hired and CUB told the sacked workers they could apply for their old jobs but this time on a new pay slashed down to 65% of their original wage. And a non-union EBA.
Multinationals’ corporate agenda attacks all workers
The use of labour hire agencies has been widely used across the world over the past 10-15 years by big business, including by multinational corporations in Australia. The tactic of hiring casual workers through external labour employment agencies is a device used to avoid even the few weak minimal employment laws that provide some job security and protection for workers won through long and hard struggle. It is monopoly capital’s imperialist strategy to casualise most of the workforce, crush organised labour and slash the cost of labour – jobs, workers’ wages and conditions - in all countries.
Obviously, CUB anticipated the sacked workers and their unions would reject these outrageous conditions and made contingency plans with Programmed, the new labour hire agency, to bus in temporary workers into the brewery. Not a minute sooner than the 55 unionised electricians and fitters were sacked, non-union casual workers were trucked into the factory. Some are unemployed FIFO mining workers brought in from Western Australia.
The Electrical Trades Union explains, “Programmed is using a previously dormant entity from WA called Catalyst Recruitment Systems Pty Ltd, who has an ‘Enterprise’ Agreement that is the minimum safety net Award, plus 50 cents. The effect of this for these 24 hour a day, 7 day a week maintenance workers amounts to a 65% reduction in real wages.
“That is 65% less than the wages of over 10,000 A Grade electricians employed in Victoria working 24 hour 7 day a week rosters.
“The tactics engaged in by CUB appear aimed to maximize the harmful impact on workers through their “contract renewal” process, to coerce them into returning to do exactly the same job, on massively reduced pay.
“This tactic has been used for decades in the UK to decimate the wages and job security of workers. UK tradies are now increasingly forced to front up to labour hire venues every morning, to find out if they have work that day, or not. Now it’s being rolled out here. Permanent, insecure work that can force down wages is the end game of these labour hire tactics. “
Unions and community support for the sacked workers is wide. Working people clearly understand this is everyone’s fight to defend our hard won job security, wages and conditions against the attacks by international monopolies. Sacked workers and their families are financially supported by many unionists across Australia. A community picket outside the Abbotsford factory is supported by unionists and communities. Local Yarra Council passed a motion supporting the sacked workers.
A community campaign to boycott CUB brewery products so far includes more than 20 hotels and pubs around Australia refusing to serve CUB beer.
Corporate globalisation and monopolisation
In 2011 the Australian owned C.U.B. Foster’s Group, the then biggest beer brewing company in Australia, was taken over by multinational SABMiller, a joint South African, US and British brewing monopoly, and the world’s second biggest beer and soft drinks manufacturer. Before the takeover by SABMiller, Foster’s sacked 50% of its maintenance workforce and outsourced all the remaining maintenance jobs to a labour hire contractor on lower wages and conditions. The workers and their unions fought back hard and succeeded in protecting some of the hard won conditions for the 55 remaining workers. However, they could not stop the outsourcing of jobs to labour hire contractors.
SABMiller multinational operates in more than 80 countries and exploits 70,000 workers who create billions in profits for the parent company.
Now the world’s biggest beer brewing monopoly is gobbling up the world’s second biggest beer monopoly. The destruction of jobs, wages and conditions is inherent in all corporate takeovers and monopolisation of capital, imperialism.
Anheuser-Busch InBev controls 25% of the world’s beer market and exploits 150,000 workers around the world. AB-InBev’s headquarters are in Manhattan, US. It has swallowed up countless small and medium breweries around the world and is the main beer company in the US, controlling 50% of the US market.
Like all mergers and takeovers by multinational corporations and global banks the Anheuser-Busch InBev takeover of SABMiller (C.U.B.) inevitably involves the sackings of workers, slashing wages and conditions. This is the compulsion of capitalist monopolisation driven by profit margins and comes with the territory of imperialist globalisation.
Anheuser-Busch InBev has a notorious reputation around the world for savaging jobs, workers' rights and conditions during and after mergers and takeovers of its competitors.
The merger of SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev will bring $104.3 billion in revenue to the corporations, but at a huge cost to the exploited workers, jobs, wages and conditions in nearly 100 countries the new monopoly operates in. The takeover of SABMiller by AB-InBev is the largest global merger in the food and drink industry so far, with 100 international beer brands under one beer monopoly.
“UnFair” Work Commission
And where is the so-called “independent” Fair Work Commission, which bans industrial action by workers during the non-protected period, with threats of heavy fines and gaoling workers and their union officials? Where is the Fair Work Commission to declare the sackings of 55 CUB workers during the non-protected period as illegal? It hides behind its own crafted legislation which lets off big business, enabling them to evade the so-called “impartial” laws by using the labour hire contractors to sack workers.
Australian workers need an independent Australia
The burden of imperialist globalisation is crushing down on people’s livelihoods, job security and hard won rights.
Economic self-sufficiency and independence from the exploitative monopoly capital (which is mainly foreign) underpins all Australian workers’ struggles for job security, decent wages, working conditions and living standards and workers’ rights.
Millions of Australians buy CUB beer and other of its products. As one of the sacked workers said, “These multinational companies pay little if any tax in this country, and yet they send these profits overseas. They destroy our hard won wages and conditions and every time we win or manage to push back their attacks they come back and try to take them away again.”
That’s monopoly capitalism and why we need to put an end to it.
CUB workers are showing the way!