Parmalat Australia CEO Craig Garvin said:
“Parmalat’s aim is to produce high quality yoghurts and dairy products safely and efficiently at the Echuca site. This will allow us to be competitive in one of Australia’s lowest margin food sectors. If Parmalat can achieve this aim, it will create local employment and broader community benefits such as long-term supply agreements with local dairy farmers.
The yoghurts and dairy desserts market is highly customer focused and demand driven. This means that, to achieve its aim and provide positive community outcomes, Parmalat needs to be able to schedule both its workforce and its maintenance activities at the Echuca site to meet market requirements.
We have sought to negotiate with the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union and the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union to achieve an outcome for the new Enterprise Agreement (EA) that provides this necessary flexibility. The offer that Parmalat has put forward is fair and reasonable. The key terms of Parmalat’s offer are:
• An increase of CPI per annum to all wages and indexed allowances.
• Maintenance of existing employee superannuation contributions, which are higher than industry standards.
• Maintenance of existing redundancy provisions.
• Parmalat to be able to carry out standard maintenance and scheduling in order to run the plant safely and efficiently.
Existing and new employees would not be treated differently.
If the conditions we have proposed are accepted by our employees, Parmalat will offer back-pay to 1 September 2016.
Parmalat has met with union representatives no less than 18 times since mid 2016 and sought the assistance of Fair Work Australia to help reach an agreement. Agreement has not been reached because the demands of the unions are unrealistic. As well as refusing to negotiate on flexibility, union demands include, for example, a requirement for each employee to be paid an additional $6,000 as a condition of signing the new EA. This is disappointing given that the Echuca workers attract some of the highest pay in dairy processing in Australia.
Parmalat regrets the financial and emotional burden that has been put on the families of our Echuca workforce since the temporary site closure was implemented following the recent strike action. Parmalat is seeking a way forward to resolve the dispute as soon as possible and is committed to working cooperatively and in good faith with its employees. Satisfactory resolution of the new EA will provide significant benefits for the local community.”