Solidarity rolls in for sacked CUB workers

16 August 2016
Kath Larkin

Fifty-five maintenance workers are nine weeks into a dispute with Carlton United Brewery after being sacked by the brewer, owned by SABMiller. The workers – all members of the ETU or AMWU – were told they could reapply for their jobs on individual contracts, with no union protections and a 65 percent pay cut.

Refusing to be cowed, they declined the offer and instead set up a protest camp outside CUB’s iconic Abbotsford brewery. The company has since been bringing scab labour onto the site to maintain the plant and continue production.

However, the sacked workers are receiving solidarity from many quarters. Members of the ETU and AMWU have voluntarily levied themselves to support the workers and their protest financially.

Hundreds of unionists have visited the workers’ protest site. At a solidarity rally on 4 August, a vast array of union flags – from those of the teachers’ union to the maritime union – flew over the crowd as speakers delivered messages of support. Members of the construction union, working on a nearby site, marched off the job and entered the protest chanting: “CUB: Shame! Shame! Shame!”.

Fresh off their recent industrial win, some Polar Fresh workers were also there to back up the CUB workers. They had earlier in the week arranged for the delivery of a truck full of firewood to help keep the fires burning at the protest. National Union of Workers members at Polar Fresh received a boost on the first day of their strike when a delegation of CUB workers turned up to help.

A list of work sites and unions that have donated to the solidarity fund was read out. Local council workers brought homemade cakes. A special mention was made of the regular visits the protest camp receives from an old age pensioner who lives in the public housing towers close to the brewery. He donates $5 to the workers’ fighting fund every week.

Unionists came out again on 11 August, when hundreds rallied in support of the sacked workers, including a large and vocal contingent of maritime workers. Smaller solidarity protests have been held around the country, and a fundraiser recently held at Victorian Trades Hall raised thousands for the sacked workers.

This sort of solidarity is the lifeblood of the union movement. However, while the protesting workers’ brave stand has garnered widespread support, there has been no public indication that the company – Australia’s second largest beer supplier – is buckling under the pressure of the negative publicity surrounding their treatment.

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