Unions are urging their members and supporters to celebrate with Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) beers this Christmas after claiming a win in their six-month dispute with the brewing giant.
CUB on Wednesday invited its 55 picketing Melbourne maintenance workers to return to their jobs in a deal that not only ends their industrial dispute, but also a damaging boycott of CUB products.
The Electric Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) issued a joint statement calling for “an immediate end” to the boycott of CUB’s beers and ciders.
Fittingly, the ETU said it would be hosting beers for the campaign’s supporters at its Melbourne office on Wednesday.
Thousands took to the streets in a September rally as a show of support for the CUB workers, who fell under the controversial Catalyst Services Enterprise Agreement 2014, which was rolled out at CUB’s Abbotsford plant.
Under the agreement, 55 electricians and fitters were told that their hire contractor was being replaced by Programmed Skilled, which struck the agreement under the the auspices of its subsidiary, Catalyst Recruitment.
The agreement included a provision that allowed the contractor to reduce the workers’ pay to just 50 cents above the award whenever Programmed chose.
The 2014 agreement was voted on by just three casual workers in Perth two years ago.
Most of the workers refused to sign the agreement and have been picketing the Abbotsford brewery since June.
CUB said the picketing workers had been invited to return to work at their previous positions “on fair and decent union terms and conditions, which provide job security to the workers”.
“All parties agreed to productivity and efficiency improvements that will be implemented at the brewery,” the company said in a statement.
“CUB and the Unions have mapped out a better approach based on mutual respect, productivity and a shared passion to make the best beers with the best skilled workers.”
BREAKING: #CUB55 just WON all their demands and will RETURN TO WORK!
No matter how strong a multinational corp, we can fight them. And win. pic.twitter.com/PtRYs9cI3h
— Australian Unions (@unionsaustralia) December 7, 2016
Fairfax Media also reported that a confidential agreement includes compensation for the workers, who were off work since June.
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver described the agreement with CUB as “a historic win for the union movement and all our supporters”.
“These 55 workers have been out on the street for nearly 180 days standing up for the rights of all workers, they will walk back into work on Monday morning with their jobs secure and their full pay and conditions,” Mr Oliver said in a statement.
“We are glad to finally be able to end the boycott on CUB products, which are once again proudly union-made at Abbottsford,” he said.
“I’m sure that with Christmas and New Year right around the corner our members and supporters will be relieved to hear that CUB is back on the menu.”
The ETU and AMWU called for an immediate end of the boycott on CUB products and encouraged its supporters to return to “drinking the full range of CUB beers and ciders”.
— AEU ACT (@AEUACT) December 7, 2016
“All parties are pleased to resolve this dispute and to refocus their attention on working together to brew the best beers in Victoria,” the unions said.
The return of the maintenance workers will be welcome news for CUB, which has reportedly struggled to meet peak summer demand due to maintenance issues.
Unions told Fairfax the brewer was losing an estimated was losing $2 million a week in production losses.
The CUB Abbotsford plant produces some of Australia’s best-selling beer and cider brands, including Carlton Draught, Carlton Dry, VB, Crown Lager, Pure Blonde, Mercury and Strongbow.