Update : November 11, 2011 : Court orders union to stop blockade, AAP, November 11, 2011. On Friday night police attempted to break the picket. One picketer was seriously injured and taken away by ambulance with suspected leg and/or spinal injuries. The community picket is being maintained over the weekend and supporters are strongly encouraged to come down and join it.
• In 2005, St Albans man Mario Azzopardi died at Baiada’s Moorooduc farm when a 550-kilogram steel module fell from a truck after it was loaded by a forklift driven by an unlicensed 16-year-old. Baiada was found guilty by a County Court jury and fined $100,000.
• In 2002, a 31-year-old Tamworth man’s right forearm was severed after his wrist became caught in a machine at a Baiada plant. (‘Baiada factory worker loses arm in accident’, The Northern Daily Leader, March 22, 2002. Dunno what WorkCover done.)
The company, one of Australia’s largest chicken “processors”, is owned by the Baiada family. Their hard work was recognised earlier in the year when the company was nominated for the ‘Excellence in Community Practices’ award at the 2011 BRW ANZ Private Business Awards.
Despite its excellence, the company is currently embroiled in an industrial dispute with workers belonging to the NUW at their Laverton North factory (19 Pipe Road, Laverton North, VIC, 3026 | 1300 137 372). The industrial action has received near-unanimous support from unionists (PDF), and is aimed at securing a little moar money and a little better working conditions for members.
Sadly, the pursuit of excellence by the Baiada family means that, inter alia, the company is currently seeking a Supreme Court injunction to bar all NUW officials from the picket line. Last night, ABC news reported that a security guard at the plant, perhaps inspired by the police eviction of Occupy Melbourne, attempted to drive his car through the picket line, established at 6pm last night (Wednesday) and currently ongoing.
Supporters are being asked to join a community picket at the plant.
Basic fact sheet on Baiada Laverton
There are approximately 430 workers regularly employed at Baiada Poultry in Laverton. Approximately 150 or 40% of these workers are employed as either cash in hand workers, contractors or labour hire workers. The NUW has had regular contact with contractors and cash in hand workers but has struggled to represent them because they lack basic collective bargaining rights enjoyed by other workers in Australia.
According to our site audit, 70% of Baiada Laverton’s workforce is Vietnamese with African, Indian and continental Europeans also strongly represented in the workforce. Only around 5% of the workforce is Anglo Saxon[?].
Workers employed as contractors, cash in hand and labour hire employees to work in Baiada’s Laverton plant are mostly migrants and a large percentage of them are also international students.
The NUW has lobbied the Federal Government to improve the Migration Act, the Migration Amendment Act and the Independent Contractors Act to ensure companies like Baiada cannot intimidate and exploit vulnerable members of the Australian community and prevent them from collectively bargaining for a living wage and better working conditions.
Baiada’s indirect employment model has lead to two deaths in six years, one on a farm and one in the Laverton processing facility. Baiada was considered culpable and was charged and fined by Work Safe Victoria for both incidents.
The NUW is bargaining with the company for a new agreement for the 284 workers directly employed by the company after the previous agreement expired on the July 31 2011. 210 of these workers are members of the National Union of Workers.
The NUW and Baiada have held four bargaining meetings.
The agreement put forward by the company includes significant reductions in conditions. The company wants to take away any form of meaningful protections in terms of minimum site rates, and conversion to permanent employment.
Our log of claims includes accountable regulation of contracting on site.
- A ballot was mailed out for protected action on the 18th of October
- The ballot closed on November 2
- 70% of the workers voted in the ballot and all 100% of those that voted support indefinite strike action
- Indefinite strike action will commence at 6pm Wednesday 9th November
Animal Rights Issues
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is currently taking Federal Court action against Baiada Poultry for misleading the community over their animal welfare standards. Animals Australia and other animal welfare and consumer advocate groups have welcomed the action.
Community Support for Baiada Workers
Vietnamese Western suburbs community leader Tram Nguyen has worked closely with the National Union of Workers on our campaign to help Baiada Workers. Tram is employed as a Vietnamese multicultural mide at Sunshine Primary School and has also worked closely with the Brimbank Council. Community groups including the International Student Legal Advice Clinic (ISLAC) and the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition are also partnering with the NUW to provide support for poultry workers including those employed by Baiada.
Baiada Company Profile
Baiada Poultry was established by Celestino and Giovanna Baiada in the late 1950s and the company is still owned by the extended Baiada family, which includes Simon and John Camilleri, grand children of Celestino and Giovanna Baiada. The Baiada family’s wealth was estimated at $495 million by BRW Magazine in June 2011.
Baiada Poultry is Australia’s leading poultry company and controls approximately 35% of the market and had revenue in 2009-2010 totalling $1,195 million, which will have significantly increase in 2011 after the company completed a significant takeover of a major competitor Bartter. Baiada are a private company and the directors and owners are very secretive about their financial position. Annual profit figures and executive pay details are not available. Simon Camilleri and Jean Mercieca are listed as the current Directors of Baiada Poultry.
Baiada is the primary poultry provider for Coles supermarkets. Baiada’s other major customers include Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, Nandos, KFC and Red Rooster. The company has processing operations in every Australian mainland state so a lock out at Laverton may not necessarily disrupt supply of chickens to Coles but would mean the company would have to transport poultry from interstate to service their Victorian supermarkets as well as the company’s other customers. Baiada workers in WA, SA and Victoria are represented by the NUW while workers in NSW and QLD are represented by the AMEIU.