Union workers who shut down chicken plants across Australia over a pay dispute with a major poultry supplier are back at work after voting up a new labour contract.
The United Workers Union and Inghams, a major supplier to brands such as Woolworths and McDonald’s, reached an in-principle agreement on a new enterprise agreement after five days of controversial industrial action, which disrupted the company’s West Australian and South Australian operations.
The unions pushed for an 18 per cent pay rise over three years, while the company offered an 11 per cent bump.
Workers will receive a 5.12 per cent increase in pay in the first year, followed by 4 per cent rises in the second and third years for a total 13.12 per cent bump.
The increases mean an extra $100 a week in the pockets of poultry workers.
UWU national secretary Tim Kennedy called the deal a “nice little bonus” ahead of Christmas.
“The workers that kept Australia fed during Covid took a pretty admirable stance just over a week ago and because they stuck together, they’re now going to have a nice little bonus ahead of Christmas holidays,” he said.
“This is what union does and what union is, workers taking control of their own destiny in the face of huge challenges.”
Beginning last Friday, workers pursued work stoppages at the ASX-listed company’s Osborne Park facility in WA and shut down the Bolivar plant in Adelaide.
The Bolivar protest was marred by controversy.
Fair Work Commission deputy president Peter Anderson ruled on Tuesday UWU workers organised an illegal blockade at the site, prohibiting trucks and other employees from entering and exiting the site.
The picket created biohazard risks at the plant, including a build-up of waste, because trucks could not leave the site.
Inghams also alleges an employee who tried to enter the site to work in the early hours of September 22 was assaulted.
The details of the alleged assault have not been made clear.
Inghams applied to the FWC to issue an order to suppress the picket, but Mr Anderson concluded an obstructive picket did not fall within the definition of industrial action in the Fair Work Act and as such he had no authority to rule issue the order.
The UWU and Inghams have been contacted for comment on the FWC’s conclusions.