Rally highlights need for inquiry into corporate attack on wages and conditions

Concerns over a concerted corporate strategy to erode workers’ wages and conditions sparked yesterday’s thousand-strong community march to Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) headquarters in Fortitude Valley.

Queensland Council of Unions Assistant General Secretary Michael Clifford has highlighted media reports today supporting a Senate inquiry into attempts by big business to exploit legal loopholes and undercut minimum pay and conditions.

Fairfax Media today confirmed Labor, the Greens and crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie will back calls for a sweeping inquiry into big corporations’ evasion of Australian workplace laws.

Mr Clifford told yesterday’s rally in Brisbane that CUB had shown it did not care how its wage-cutting tactics hurt its workers, or the impact these tactics were having on the Australian economy and community.

It comes amid mounting concern over deteriorating workplace standards in Australia, including underpayments, the exploitation of temporary foreign workers and the misuse of contracting and labour-hire arrangements.

Mr Clifford said unregulated labour hire continued to concern the QCU.

“We’ve seen how increasing casualization and reduced job security has a negative impact on communities.

“It means families can’t plan for their financial futures and they are reluctant to speak out about workplace issues like health and safety,” he said.

“Workers across the country are fearing that the bitter Victorian experience could happen to them – their wages cut and their job security reduced.

“We are seeing it happen across Queensland already.”

The dispute started on June 10 when 55 fitters, electricians and maintenance workers backed by the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) were told by management that they would be sacked, only to be then “invited” to re-apply for their job through a third-party contractor.

The offer of individual contracts came with no guarantees and would be a barely compliant non-union EBA. The offer was immediately rejected by the workers and their unions, who proceeded to undertake strike action.

Mr Clifford said the Turnbull LNP government’s inaction on the issue showed it danced to the tune played by the big end of town.

“The treatment of these workers is just another disgraceful demonstration of corporate greed and the determination of large corporations like CUB to avoid their obligations through the practice of outsourcing.

“These workers have been exceptionally loyal to CUB with many giving as much as thirty years’ service to the brewery,” said Mr Clifford.

“And what they are receiving in return for their loyalty to the company is a kick in the pants and a take-it-or-leave it offer that slashes their pay and entitlements.

This is a company now owned by a big multinational company, SAB Miller, with billions of dollars of turnover. CUB managed to find a way to pay no tax in the 2013-14 year, while their CEO is in for a million-dollar bonus as they cut workers’ wages to increase profits,” he said.

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