Baiada Poultry ~versus~ NUW

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.

You may remember Baiada Poultry from such moments as the decapitation of Sarel Singh in August 2010. WorkSafe later cited the company over the death. Other industrial smash hits include:

• 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.)

Baiada has also been accused of bullying, lying, and the super-exploitation of its majority migrant and NESB workers. The National Union of Workers (NUW) wants ‘Better Jobs 4 Better Chicken’.

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

Workforce/Ethnicity

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.

Bargaining

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.

Protected Action

- 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.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2015 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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8 Responses to Baiada Poultry ~versus~ NUW

  1. CharlieB says:

    What a load of obfuscuated crapdust, leftard propaganda and fairytales from 1001 [A]rabian Nights. Better be honest, our friends from the NUW (Now Unemployed Workers) and their comrades from the rent-a-thug collective: they are just craving for a biffo and couldn’t give a rodent[']s rectum about some Vietnamese migrants and student workers now earning 10 times as much as half a year ago in Saigon or Da Nang. But they’ve picked the fight with the wrong people. Baiada is still a very private company, and one with hard-headed and warm-blooded owners. They don’t piss-fart around with some bunch of juvenile union pranksters too lazy for real work.

    Of the 200-something that were coerced to sign a union membership form, at least 3/4 had no clue what they actually signed, especially not that they signed their employment prospects away with each and every job agency this side of the YangTze. Unionista just tells them “You want more dollar? You sign here!”

    Now it slowly dawns on the first of them they signed away their own jobs, plus most likely the jobs of their fellow production workers as well. And better not think of the non-union boys and gals in admin, sales, accounts, dispatch, shops and drivers- who have [nothing?] to do with this scamming thuggery. But they are forced out and stood down as well. Trust the unionistas look forward to the time when [we're] all working at CentreLink and all our food comes frozen from China.

  2. @ndy says:

    I see.

    What evidence do you have that the 200-something workers at the plant were coerced into joining the union?
    What do you make of the fact that, according to FWA, 122 union members voted in a protected ballot, and of these just one did not approve of taking some form of industrial action?
    Why is a moderate improvement in wages and conditions for workers at the Baiada plant in Laverton North going to result in all our food being imported from China?

    I could ask more questions, but that’s a start. Workers at Baiada are resisting trends which are affecting increasing numbers of workers in a range of industries, and as such would seem to be deserving of support from their fellow workers, whether born in Vietnam or Victoria.

  3. Rooster says:

    Improvement to wages… What is wrong with a 3% increase every year for the next 3 years? Workers at the Laverton plant are being paid well above the award already but no one seems to mention this. Furthermore, Baiada is a big company, they don’t need the Laverton plant to keep operating. I would like to pass on my congratulations to all the workers as in next to no time you will be unemployed. Will the NUW find you all new jobs? More than likely you will need to join the queue at Centrelink while all the NUW delegates go back to their nice offices at Docklands. You have all achieved nothing with this industrial action.

  4. @ndy says:

    3%, 4%, 5%: who’s to say what’s a fair rate of exploitation? Workers at the plant have obviously decided such remuneration is inadequate. Further, there are other issues at stake in the strike, including the casualisation of labour and poor working conditions. Last year, a worker was decapitated at the plant, and the company was criticised by WorkSafe for failing to adhere to OH&S laws.

    And yes, Baiada is a big company, and it could close the plant. But as it stands, it’s estimated that it loses something in the vicinity of $1 million a day in revenue while the plant stays idle, and transferring production elsewhere also imposes large costs upon the company. The company will also have to take into account the negative publicity surrounding its activities, and the fact that the companies (such as Coles) which it supplies are particularly vulnerable to consumer concern. In summary, it may be that a return to production under terms agreed to by the workers will in the longer-term be advisable. Much will also depend upon the class solidarity extended to the owners by industry associations, other employers, and the government.

  5. Pingback: Police attack Baiada picket line in Laverton. Fail thug is fail. | slackbastard

  6. Pingback: Baiada and corporate predation | slackbastard

  7. FormerChickenPlucker says:

    You claim the work force supports this movement yet the crowd blocking the people who want to earn a living are [predominantly] Anglo-Saxon. If your above claims are correct then the people protesting are only a minority of workers and mostly the commonly found on [a] picket line “rent a crowd”. I previously worked for Baiada and the NUW uses misleading information to sign up members who do not have an understanding of what they are signing up for. I worked along side workmates/friends who believed they were signing for wage insurance and when asked by other workers why they wanted to join a union were confused as to what they were being asked. I support the idea of unions and the support some unions have given many Australians, but I would never have joined this union as I am Australian born, raised and educated and could see through their claims. We were as mentioned by Rooster paid above-award wage something I do not receive now. As to the casual work all companies in Australia are employing this tactic, wrong or right it is happening everywhere. Why do these protesters not support other casual workers who would like to be full time?

  8. Iseethetruth says:

    Conditions at the Baiada plant I work at have dropped considerably since they bought out Bartter/Steggles.

    On Wednesday 30th November 2011 immigration paid a visit to our factory. Contract workers were seen running outside to hide, even into the swamp that is behind our site. Some sections of the factory were left with something in the area of 4 or 5 workers because 40 odd had done a runner!

    In this story http://www.theage.com.au/business/inside-baiada-dire-picture-of-health-safety-20111120-1npeb.html the company says the pictures were staged! I believe they’re not because the same things happens at the factory where I work. I applaud the workers at Laverton for caring about their workplace, for wanting better for themselves & their customers.

    The people running Baiada have no idea OR don’t care about safety, food safety, hygiene or any kind of good manufacturing practices. It is quite amazing to see the low levels of management ability displayed by this company.

    I’m part of a union because if I wasn’t then I’d be earning a pittance & working in below standard conditions (not far off now thanks to Baiada). I apologse to the above commentators for seeking to provide for my family the best I can. I also care about giving our customers the best product I can in contrast to Baiada’s quantity over quality practices.

    So flame away but I live & see the truth everyday as do a lot of Aussies & exploited foreign contract workers.

    Ps – Don’t eat the chicken :(

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