More than 300 SunRice employees will go on strike next week in regional NSW and Victoria, demanding that the company abandon its plan to erode worker conditions. For the past eight months, the United Workers Union has been negotiating a new employment agreement with SunRice, but talks have come to a halt. The workers want a reasonable salary raise every year over the course of a four-year deal, which would improve their job security and ensure that casuals are taken care of without jeopardising their current working circumstances.
With the company’s proposed changes to conditions that would have consequences across the regions, according to UWU spokesman Tom Czech, workers are essentially being asked to fund their own wage hike. SunRice’s intention to remove crucial conditions has workers concerned “Mr. Czech explained. “This included removing volunteer firefighters’ and domestic violence victims’ leave, as well as time to donate blood, from the agreement. “Here we have a cruel corporation ignoring its people and communities by denying them guaranteed time to contribute and play these critical responsibilities.”
Mr Czech said SunRice’s booming seasons and revenues made the attempt to reduce labour conditions an especially painful pill to chew. Despite up to 15% staff shortages across the board, the company produced 620,000 tonnes of rice last year. Only 47,000 tonnes of rice were produced the last time an agreement rollover was negotiated, but the business did not remove any requirements. “Workers have been required to work numerous overtime hours during the pandemic to make up for manpower shortages and process huge harvests,” Mr Czech said. “They have maintained grocery shelves stocked with critical items for communities across the country as essential workers. The company’s answer is a snub, motivated by profit.” On Tuesday, February 1 and Wednesday, February 2, 330 workers at SunRice, CopRice, and Australian Grain Storage will go on strike. A representative from SunRice has been contacted for comment.
Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)