Lacking any Schweppervescence. It could be a dry Christmas for some due to an industrial dispute at beverage giant Schweppes’ Tullamarine plant in Melbourne. An insider reports:

“Thanks to a lock-out of many of its employees in an industrial dispute, Schweppes is running out of drinks at its busiest time of year. The company has brought in casuals to replace the people it’s locked out — but it didn’t reckon on its maintenance staff refusing to work on the machines while the lock-out lasts.

“The machines need constant maintenance and most can’t be run without the constant attention of the maintenance crew, so most are sitting idle while casuals are paid to sit around and watch. Drinks are running out and summer promotional plans are in absolute disarray. A lot of us are pretty angry that the company big wigs decided to go to the mattresses at this time of the year.”

Schweppes Australia and United Voice have been negotiating a new agreement with staff since the end of June. Rolling stoppages “makes it impossible for us to manage our business”, the company said in a statement on December 15. A spokesperson today told us trucks are getting out and making deliveries, but “probably not at the level we’ve been”. They weren’t aware of the situation at the plant or with ongoing promotional plans; we’ll update with any response.

Pensions put squeeze on retired troops. Our story yesterday on the unrest in military ranks over superannuation pensions got one ex-serviceman — “on a low and taxed pension” — hot under the collar. They write anonymously:

“At this time of the year there is no greater hypocrisy than being asked by politicians to think of our servicemen and servicewomen serving overseas in countries like Afghanistan and then when they return home after serving in the name of Australia and retire from military service the servicemen and servicewomen receive a pension that is indexed at a lower rate than politicians and others who receive a Commonwealth Welfare and Aged Pension. Yes, put your life on the line, allow our leaders to make capital out of your brave service, but be quiet when you no longer serve this nation in uniform and be grateful to receive a lower indexation than others who have not contributed like you have.”

SMH scribe to spin for Westpac. The Sydney Morning Herald is losing its business editor to a bank. Danny John, the long-time banking scribe who took up editing the SMH business pages in July, is off to Westpac. “News travels fast,” he told us when questioned on the move today. John will be a spinner for the Big Four goliath, working under media relations boss Paul Marriage. Interestingly, he was writing about Westpac’s management reshuffle as recently as November 24 …

Still no comment from Fairfax sites. Meanwhile, after we reported yesterday that Fairfax had overhauled its website comments section, it seems things might not have got back to normal. In fact, most comments have completed disappeared, according to one Fairfax blogger. Probably forever.

“The whole point of the upgrade to Fairfax online is to make it more interactive for the public to use,” the blogger tells us. “I doubt that people who have taken the time to make comments to my blog will ever do so again. Some of them have emailed me asking what has happened to their comments. Why isn’t there a notice on The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age home pages to tell readers what has happened?” Good question.

News Ltd surveys the field. Over at News Limited, they’re asking readers what the future of digital news is. A Crikey reader reports:

“I’ve been asked to participate in an online ‘survey’ from News Ltd about the future of newspapers. At one point it shows me a video about the iPadisation of news, preceded by the following comment: ‘Keep in mind that at some point in the near future, all major Australian newspapers will start charging for unrestricted access to their digital content.’ How can they talk so confidently on behalf of Fairfax, WAN, etc?  Or do only News Ltd publish the ‘major’ Australian papers?”

Xmas office watch: Kim says thanks. Still at News, and with his feet now firmly under the desk, new CEO Kim Williams has sent his Christmas greetings to staff. Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t want people to say hello in the corridors …

From: “The Office of Kim Williams”
Date: 20 December 2011 13:43:50 AEDT
Subject: A Message From Kim Williams

Dear colleagues,

After two weeks with News Limited I feel energised and enthusiastic about my new job — one which I am honoured to have.

In that time I have had the great pleasure of meeting a number of you. I have seen first-hand the dedication and craft that goes into publishing such great newspapers, magazines, websites and apps.

I will be travelling to as many sites as I can in the first quarter of 2012 with the aim of meeting many more of you. We will set up formal and informal meet and greets, but if you pass me in a corridor please do say hello. Should you encounter me in a lift, please do the same – if my recent experience in Holt Street is anything to go by, we may have an opportunity for a lengthy discussion!

We have much ahead of us in the New Year, not least a substantial change management program as we confront the many challenges before us. I have created a new Executive Forum to discuss and manage the changes I am confident will shape our business for even greater success in the future. I will tell you more about our strategy and tactics in the weeks and months ahead. Your thoughts, comments and feedback will be welcome always in that process.

We will start 2012 in a strong and constructive place. It will be a really big year with a lot of change, which will be challenging for sure — but equally exciting and rewarding.

In the interim I wish you and your loved ones a happy Christmas and a healthy and restorative period between now and the New Year in preparation for a truly memorable 2012.

With every good wish,

Kim

And it’s not too late to report your corporate Christmas — the party, the presents, the management pep talks. Drop us a line or use the anonymous form.

Peter Fray

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