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Unilever calls on union to work constructively to secure Streets factory future

Unilever has been part of the fabric of Australia’s manufacturing industry for more than 100 years. Streets Ice Cream was invented in Corrimal, NSW in the 1920s and we’ve been proudly making it in Australia ever since.

Our goal is to keep making Streets ice cream products in Australia, but our Minto factory lacks the flexibility needed to run a seasonal business and is too costly to run, making it uncompetitive.  We cannot continue with the current situation as it’s simply not sustainable.  For example, it’s currently almost 30 per cent cheaper to import a Magnum Classic ice cream made in Europe than to make the same ice cream at Minto, even when you include the 16,000 kilometres of frozen transport. 

Whatever the Fair Work Commission (FWC) decides, we’ll continue to have discussions with our employees and the Union to find a solution that works for everyone and makes the Streets factory more viable. We know this is a very difficult time for our employees, but the best way the Australian Manufacturers Workers Union (AMWU) can help workers is to shore up their jobs by working with us to make the factory more viable. Ultimately if we need to close the factory, everyone is worse off.

In regards to the Union’s calls for a summer boycott of Streets, we think that Australians can decide for themselves what ice cream to eat. The reality is that every Gaytime, Magnum or Paddle Pop chosen this summer will help shore up the future of Streets manufacturing in Australia.

All a boycott will do is hurt workers and local manufacturing. We are in the midst of further negotiations with the AMWU and we suggest their efforts are best focused on working constructively with us to find solutions that can work for everyone and help secure the future of our Streets factory.

Background

In August we made the difficult decision to lodge an application with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to terminate the current Enterprise Agreement (EA) at our Minto site. This followed 16 months of negotiations with the Australian Manufacturers Workers Union (AMWU), where in good faith, we reached a mutual and in-principle agreement which was ultimately voted down by employees. After careful consideration of our options, to create more flexible working conditions and to enhance our competitiveness, we believe this decision is in the best interests of our employees and the future of manufacturing in Minto.

We strongly refute statements made by the union that Unilever will, or may, reduce employee wages by 46%, there is absolutely no truth to these claims. 

We understand the prospect of change can be unsettling and we have introduced measures to give our employees a period of stability and support whilst the matter is before the FWC, and beyond, and we are keeping them informed of any updates.

Until the FWC makes a decision, all employees continue to be paid in line with the terms and conditions of the current EA. If the FWC decides to terminate the agreement, we have already committed to preserve a range of benefits under the existing EA – including maintaining rates of pay – until 30 April 2018 (or earlier if a new agreement is reached) while we have discussions with employees and the AMWU to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

Key facts:

• Unilever engaged in more than 20 interest based bargaining sessions over 16 months with the AMWU and employee delegates under guidance of the FWC.

• The Streets ice cream factory at Minto is the most expensive factory to run out of all Unilever ice cream factories across the world.

• The current EA at Minto is highly restrictive on how, where and which staff can work. No other competitor faces these restrictions, including:

o Minimum manning levels to operate production lines that can render an entire line inoperable when 1-2 employees are on leave or on a break. 

o Restrictions to the employment of casual, fixed term and seasonal staff (including duration of employment, ability to train and allocate to different parts of the production process) meaning that at times there are more staff than needed at the factory, yet a line still can’t be run because those staff can’t be trained and allocated where needed. 

o Permanent staff are not allowed to move around the factory to work on different parts of the production process even if they are appropriately trained. 

• The local manufacturing of Streets in Australia provides 149 permanent, 5 fixed term, 21 casual and 26 seasonal jobs at the Minto factory as well as supporting a range of local suppliers including dairy farmers, packaging suppliers and equipment suppliers. 

• Streets was founded in Australia in the 1920s by Edwin ‘Ted’ Street in Corrimal, NSW. Paddle Pop, Splice, Gaytime and Blue Ribbon were invented in Australia with local manufacturing enabling strong local innovation over the decades.

Media enquiries

Todd Hayward on 0412 205 151

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