AMIEU picket wins dispute in Ararat

At 7.00am on Friday 31 October 2014 slaughterers at Ararat Abattoir stopped work and established a formal AMIEU picket line.

The stoppage had come about because the negotiations for a new Enterprise Agreement had come to a standstill. In particular there was no agreement on the hours of work; the pay increases and back pay. There has been no improvement in pay since March 2013 despite the fact that Ararat Abattoirs had been highly productive, as the meat industry has been for several years.

Under the Fair Work the AMIEU had been granted the right to take protected action and the Ararat slaughterers had voted to take an unlimited number of stoppages for up to 7 days duration. Management had been given 72 hours notice that the action would take place if they could not reach agreement over these issues.

Initially management did not seem to take the stoppage very seriously.

However, picket lines that do not breach the peace are a legitimate form of industrial protest. Those on a picket line can seek to dissuade other people from entering the workplace. The AMIEU organisers and members did approach the drivers of the trucks and requested them to turn around. Solidarity prevailed and soon the management asked to enter discussion again.

Very quickly agreement was reached on:

  • 7 hour day;
  • 3% pay rise each year (previously they had refused to go beyond 2%);
  • back pay from March 2014;
  • negotiations to start on next Enterprise Agreement three months before the 2014 EA ends;
  • holiday pay for the following day (in line with the proposed agreement); and
  • proposed changes to systems or methods of work must be taken to the consultative committee.

The union members had stuck together on their demands; filed for protected action; voted in favour of strike action; stopped work and set up the picket line.

That is how they achieved a victory on their Enterprise Agreement.