Milk producer Parmalat’s relationship with its workers has soured over a new enterprise bargaining agreement, as it announced the permanent closure of its Ecucha dairy processing plant, according to Shepparton News.
The breakdown in negotiations between the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and CEPU and the company spurred the unions to take industrial action, with about 60 workers stranded outside the site on Wednesday of last week.
‘‘Parmalat Australia confirms that members of the AMWU and CEPU at its Echuca site have today commenced industrial action, in the form of work bans, as part of negotiations to develop a new enterprise bargaining agreement,’’ a Parmalat spokesperson said.
The workers at the plant have been in negotiations with the company for their new enterprise agreement since August last year and the company spokesperson said Parmalat was dissatisfied that the negotiations have taken so long.
‘‘Parmalat is disappointed the AMWU and CEPU has decided to commence industrial action in light of the six months of good faith negotiations which Parmalat has participated in to date.
As a result, we have had to make the tough decision to close the site indefinitely.’’
The AMWU national food secretary Tom Hale said said the union was disgusted at Parmalat for locking out its Echuca workforce.
‘‘Parmalat’s actions today are outrageous and extreme. The workers are simply exercising a legal right to take protected industrial action in response to the company’s efforts to tear up their existing agreement and attack their permanent jobs and their wages and conditions,’’ Hale said.
Parmalat said steps had been undertaken to ensure no customers would be impacted by union action.
As of yesterday, however, the negotiations between the company and union looked more positive. Manufacturing union representative Tom Hale said he hoped that an agreement would be completed by Australia Day. The outcome of the negotiations is still pending.