Tea workers brew their first collective agreement
Jul 14, 2011
AMWU delegate Simon Hynds says workers are getting becoming.
Tea manufacturers in Adelaide’s south, some casual for up to 20 years, have begun a campaign to seek permanency after joining the AMWU.
The workers at Christie Tea, who blend and mix tea for ALDI, IGA and other supermarket brands, joined the union last year and are now working towards their first collective agreement.
Site delegate, Simon Hynes, said it was a big but important step for the 15 production workers.
“We’ve never had a history of union activity at the site. But we just felt that something had to be done to improve things.
“At first there were only four of us (AMWU members). Then all of a sudden they all wanted to join. The production workers came to me and asked if I had forms.”
Many of the workers wanted the benefits and security of being permanent, including Mr Hynes.
“I’ve taken leave without pay. I’ve had to save up money, put money aside for bills and money for the holiday. It’s bloody hard.
“If we were to close down or move interstate – we wouldn’t get any redundancy entitlements. Why have a right to casual conversion in the award if you can’t bloody well use it?”
Mr Hynes said as well as achieving permanent status, workers at the factory wanted to be classified properly.
“There are some workers who can work certain machines, they want to be recognised for that. Reclassification is important.
“We’d like the boss to be fair, he tends to pick and choose what he likes from the award. The workers have had enough - they want something to be done and they want a union collective agreement.”
AMWU Regional SA Secretary, Peter Bauer, said the company had refused to allow FairWork Australia to arbitrate the conversion to permanency dispute.
“Since FWA under the Award has no power to arbitrate this matter we’re seeking a union collective agreement and if the company continues to refuse we will use the power of the collective workers to get an agreement and fix the matter that way as well as address employees’ classifications.
“We want to see the conversion of these workers into permanent employment where they want that security.”
He said the members had come along way in a short period of time.
“Many of our members are migrants. They don’t have a background in unionism, they don’t have a full understanding of laws and their entitlements but they do understand fairness and know when they are not getting treated properly.
“It’s good to see them become organised and now seek some action.”
Contact Email: david.gibney [at] awmu.asn.au