Streets ice-cream workers offer to improve rosters and retrain skills

Unilever, the multinational company that owns Streets, wants to terminate an enterprise agreement covering factory workers in Sydney's Minto. Photo: Supplied
Unilever, the multinational company that owns Streets, wants to terminate an enterprise agreement covering factory workers in Sydney's Minto. Photo: Supplied

Streets ice-cream workers will offer to improve rosters and retrain to provide a more flexible workforce which their union estimates could save the company up to $2.5 million.

The offer to be put to multinational Unilever, owner of the Streets ice-cream factory in Minto, in the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday is the latest development in a dispute over the wages and conditions of workers.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union which represents the Streets workers who make the Paddle Pop, Magnum and Golden Gaytime has launched a summer boycott on the ice-creams in protest against the company's threat to terminate the enterprise agreement on current wages and conditions.

The AMWU has warned 140 workers at the Minto factory they face a pay cut of up to 46 per cent of their wage if the enterprise agreement is terminated and they fall back onto the award.

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The AMWU will on Tuesday offer Unilever a proposal to decrease labour costs at the factory while avoiding any need to cut to wages and conditions or jobs.

The union plan includes changing rosters to provide better coverage on the factory floor when workers are absent or on leave.

It also proposes changes in staffing levels to better reflect demand. A training program has also been proposed to help employees work across different roles.

The union estimates the changes could save the company up to $2.5 million.

AMWU NSW secretary Steven Murphy says the Streets Free Summer campaign has shown that the Australian public expect Unilever to treat their workforce with respect. Photo: Wolter Peeters

AMWU NSW secretary Steven Murphy says the Streets Free Summer campaign has shown that the Australian public expect Unilever to treat their workforce with respect. Photo: Wolter Peeters

The plan will be offered to Unilever as part of day-long negotiations in the Fair Work Commission in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

AMWU NSW secretary Steve Murphy said workers were willing to help make the factory more profitable.

"We have always said that we will work constructively with Unilever to ensure the long-term future of the Streets factory in Minto,” Mr Muphy said.

“Today's offer should go a long way to securing good jobs at the site.

"We will co-operate, but not while we have the threat of a 46 per cent wage cut hanging over our members. Unilever must take the termination of the current [Enterprise Bargaining Agreement] off the table."

“Today's offer should go a long way to securing good jobs at the [Minto] site."

AMWU NSW secretary Steven Murphy

Mr Murphy said the Streets Free Summer campaign had shown the Australian public expect Unilever to treat their workforce with respect.

"Many Australians understand that if a multinational like Unilever can get away with cutting their workers' pay like this, their wages and conditions will be next," he said.

"This is a critical example of how our workplace laws are tilted in favour of employers."

Anthony Toovey, general manager, ice-cream, Unilever Australia and New Zealand, has previously said the company wants to keep making Streets locally, "but the current situation is just not sustainable and needs to be addressed".

"Ultimately if we need to close the factory, everyone is worse off," he said.

Source: SMH