The worker strike at Lactalis’ Bendigo dairy processing factory continues to stretch out.
The 140 processing workers began protesting last Thursday against factory owner Lactalis for higher wages, more secure long-term jobs and a guarantee from Lactalis not to ‘mothball’ the Bendigo site if the dairy giant leaves.
UWU organiser Tom Czech said the workers were seeking a fair wage after doing their bit to ensure the company’s ongoing profits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Workers at Bendigo have heard threats many times that the company will shut Bendigo if their wages are the same or higher than other Lactalis workers,” Mr Czech said.
Mr Czech said the workers had grown sick of these “threats” and were demanding the wage gap between sites was closed.
Threats to close the site is why the strike includes a guarantee not to mothball the factory.
Mothballing is when a dairy operator decommissions a site but does not sell the facility.
David Bish has been working at the Bendigo site for 10 years.
“We want a commitment for our town,” Mr Bish said.
“If they do shut us down, we want to know they will let this site live again if another dairy company wants to take it on.”
Mr Bish said there were generations of families who’ve worked on the site, raised families, and contributed to the town.
“There are farmers that rely on this site to get their milk processed. If Lactalis wants to walk away from that, fine – but don’t ruin our future in the process. That’s the commitment we’re seeking,” he said.
The workers waited until the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the Victorian economy lessened before commencing the strike on November 5 at 93 Bannister St, North Bendigo.
Products made at the Lactalis Bendigo site include: Paul Milk custard and sour cream, Farmhouse and Farmhouse Gold milk, Dairy Farmers milk, Ice Break ice coffee, Zymilk lactose free milk, Vaalia Yoghurt and Macro Organic.
Lactalis Australia was contacted for comment.