Female cheese packers picket factory, claim men are paid whey more

“We are just scraping in a few cents above the minimum wage at the moment and the cost of living is far exceeding our pay packets.

“My pay has gone up $1.13 in 10 years and the cost of living has been going up and up”.

The minimum wage is $19.49.

The women have been picketing for more than a week outside the factory and are preparing to continue their industrial action next week if the company does not increase its pay offer.

“We’ve been out for eight days now and they have not budged at all,” she said.

The company has offered a 6.5 per cent for the first year, followed by 3 per cent for each of the next three years as part of a new four-year enterprise agreement.

The women, who are members of the United Workers Union (UWU), are calling for a 30 per cent increase to bring their pay closer to the $26 hourly rate their male co-workers in Longwarry are paid.

Ms Norrie, who lives in Garfield, said her work in the packing room demands a high level of concentration to ensure cheese fed onto a conveyor belt is correctly wrapped and labelled with matching batch numbers and stickers.

“You have to pay a lot of attention to making sure you have everything 100 per cent right,” she said.

“I have been a Level 2 production worker for 10 years.”

The UWU’s national director, food and beverages, Susie Allison, said the workers were fighting for equal pay across three Lactalis factory sites.

“Workers at the cheese factory – predominantly women workers from the packing room – are taking action to fight for wage parity with male workers at other Lactalis sites,” she said

“Despite working in a speciality cheese factory, they are amongst the lowest paid Lactalis workers – and the lowest paid workers in dairy.

“Some of the women in their thirties and forties have to live with their parents on these wages as they can’t afford rent. Many have had to get second jobs as cleaners and gardeners just to get by.”

Ms Allison said Lactalis generates more than $26 billion a year in global revenue.

“They can afford to urgently address this appalling gender pay imbalance,” she said. “Lactalis need to show that they are a responsible global company, and ensure that all their Australian workers are respected and treated equitably.”

A spokeswoman for Lactalis said the company declined to comment on the industrial dispute.

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