Union members march in Melbourne to support CUB workers

In mid-June this year Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) sacked the entirety of their Abbotsford plant maintenance staff after instating a shifty enterprise agreement from 2014. The Abbotsford brewery is Melbourne’s largest CUB operation, producing over 420 million litres of beer each year — it is also home to the iconic Carlton Draught brew.

The CUB55 represent the maintenance staff sacked from the Abbotsford brewery who protested and fought, against Carlton & United Breweries, for 180 days this year.

The 55 employees were offered their jobs back at a 35% pay cut via a revised contract from labour hire firm Programmed Skilled; they refused the deal, as it was an immensely inferior agreement to the one they previously held.

After a campaign led by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), an agreement was struck on Wednesday that invited all workers to return on fair and secure conditions.

This is how it all went down …

August 2014. Three casual CUB workers from Perth vote for a new contract agreement, the Catalyst Services Enterprise Agreement 2014, that would eventually be the foundation for the 55 sackings. One of the employees asked to vote was a casual brought in through a friend’s father; he worked for six days.

January 2016. CUB advises Quant, contractor of the 55 workers, that their contracts will not be extended beyond July.

June 17, 2016. CUB sacks 55 of its maintenance staff, including expert fitters and electricians, in order to bring in a cheaper labour force. The 180-day industrial action begins, with picketing outside the Abbotsford brewery.

June 21, 2016. The AMWU and ETU launch social media campaign, CUB Crush Workers Rights, for the sacked CUB workers, calling for a boycott of all Carlton & United Breweries products.

July 13, 2016. The Australian Maintenance Workers Union launches a petition to Carlton & United Breweries labelled Reinstate sacked CUB workers. It gains 10,000 signatures in a day.

August, 2016. Programmed Skilled, creators of the 2014 enterprise agreement, terminate their contract with CUB due to concerns over worker safety.

August 25, 2016. Hundreds of workers from Carlton & United’s biggest brewery in Abbotsford walk off the job, bringing production and distribution to a standstill for three hours.

September 8, 2016. Thousands of protesters gather in Melbourne to march in support of the CUB55. Pubs across the nation join the protest, refusing to serve CUB beverages.

September 15, 2016. Union official charged with assaulting CUB worker on the picket line established outside the Abbotsford brewery.

September 28, 2016. AB InBev merge with SABMiller, owners of CUB, replacing CUB president Peter Filipovic with AB InBev Zone president Jan Craps. Craps immediately seeks to resolve the dispute with unions.

November 22, 2016. CUB55 workers take their battle to Australian Parliament, producing a video submission for a Senate inquiry that focused on Corporate avoidance of Fair Work laws.

December 7, 2016. The CUB55 win all demands in their dispute with the brewery and are set to return to work on decent union terms and conditions. This comes after a gritty seven-month battle with Carlton & United Breweries that included mass protests, picketing and boycotts of CUB products.

In a joint statement from the AMWU and ETU, officials said: “All parties are pleased to resolve this dispute and to refocus their attention on working together to brew the best beers in Victoria.”

Peter Fray

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