Baiada backs down after outrage over wage cuts

The AMIEU Newcastle & Northern branch can today confirm that Baiada’s plan to slash the wages of all their agency workers by up to $200 a week has been dumped.

Our branch has been working tirelessly around the clock to negotiate a solution with Baiada to save the wages of all agency workers.

As a direct result of our efforts Baiada has agreed to drop the proposed changes for existing workers, which would have seen all agency workers nationally forced off union-negotiated enterprise agreements and onto the hugely inferior minimum award wage.

These vulnerable workers already toil for long hours with no job security in a tough, fast-paced environment. With their take-home pay suddenly slashed by $200 each week, many would have lost their houses, defaulted on their bills, or forced to look for a second job to supplement the lost income.

Thanks to strong union representation, the wages of these workers are now safe.

The AMIEU is proud to represent some of the strongest, most unionised poultry processing sites in the country. Our workers at these sites have been fighting these unfair wage cut ever since it was announced and remain active and outraged about the attempt to split their workforce.

The future remains uncertain

Existing workers at Baiada may be saved, but the company has confirmed that it will still apply the minimum award rates to all new workers moving forwards.

In 2014, Baiada gave a signed commitment to the AMIEU that it would transfer labour hire agency workers onto direct employment after they had worked a certain number of hours.

The AMIEU will continue to work very closely with Baiada to ensure that it keeps that promise, and transfers these agency workers into direct employment as intended.

Tear up the Fair Work Act – it’s failed

Baiada’s plan was only possible because of the failure of the Fair Work Act to protect the most vulnerable workers in society.

The Fair Work Act has no way of preventing employers from staffing their plants with labour hire agency workers, and forcing them to accept appalling rates of pay.

Employers take advantage of this loophole by creating a “second class” of worker who receive between $5 and $13 less an hour for doing the same identical work as the person next to them.

Workers who do the same work should receive the same pay. It’s that simple.

The cancer in the workforce

The use of labour hire agency workers has skyrocketed in recent years as companies look for new ways to keep costs down.

Labour hire agency workers have no job security, no career path, and work under the constant fear of being sacked for the slightest mistake. And thanks to Australia’s woeful employment laws, the original company like Baiada doesn’t have to get its hands dirty if something should happen to the labour hire agency worker.

If a labour hire agency worker is underpaid or exploited, it’s the labour hire agency like Chandler Macleod or APG that takes all the responsibility. Agency workers are the perfect employee: cheap, expendable, and too afraid to speak up.

Urgent need for joint employment legislation

The AMIEU calls on the Labor party, the Greens, and any other parties interested in actually looking out for the rights of workers, to urgently announce support for Joint Employment Legislation.

These laws, already implemented in places like Canada, force employers to take responsibility for the workers they outsource through labour hire agencies as if they were the employer.

As it stands, companies can slash the pay of agency workers because they aren’t “their” employees — they’re the employees of labour hire agencies like Chandler Macleod or APG, who just happen to work at their factory.

But Joint Employment Legislation would force these large companies to be legally recognised as the actual employer of the agency workers, and force them to pay the correct rates.

We urgently call on the Labor party, the Greens and others to announce their support for Joint Employment Legislation. With your support, we can remove this cancer from our workforce.

Big supermarkets squeezing down the line

Australia’s massive grocery duopoly, Coles and Woolworths, are constantly squeezing more and more out of their suppliers like Baiada and Inghams. Poultry prices are the lowest they have ever been, and with greedy supermarkets putting pressure on suppliers to lower the costs even further.

Everyone enjoys cheap chicken. But Coles and Woolworths’ relentless drive to inflate their already astronomical profit margins means that tightening the screws on fresh produce suppliers results in workers paying the price.

Now Coles and Woolworths are putting the pressure on processing companies – and so once again, the most vulnerable people in the community have to suffer so that the richest can make more money. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Click here for a comparison rates table that illustrates the full depth of the wage cuts that future agency workers will experience.

More information:

Grant Courtney
AMIEU Newcastle & Northern
(02) 4929 5496