After months stationed outside Carlton United Brewery in Abbotsford, Scabby the Rat already has another gig. More than 60 workers in Echuca, a Victorian Murray River town, have been locked out by their employer Parmalat since 18 January.
The workers are union members and have been maintaining a protest camp outside their workplace since the padlock went across its gate. They have been bargaining with Parmalat, a dairy products company, for a new enterprise agreement since August 2016.
The company wants to strip wages and long-service and redundancy entitlements. Its most recent offer, which was rejected unanimously, was for existing staff to receive a small wage increase in exchange for agreeing that all new starters would receive 20 percent less.
Parmalat is owned by Lactalis, the largest dairy products company in the world. It is based in France, where its billionaire CEO, known to his friends as “the emperor of cheese”, is ranked among the 10 richest people. The company raked in a more than $22 billion in revenue last year.
The Parmalat workers, and their unions, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union and the Electrical Trades Union, are calling for solidarity.