Boycott Carlton United Brewery!

To catch you up if you haven’t heard anything about this: The Abbotsford Brewery, the biggest in Melbourne, which makes CUB (Carlton United Breweries) products recently let go 55 workers, many of them highly skilled and with years of experience. I say let go because they didn’t fire them, they were under contract from another company so it’s that company who fired them. CUB claims it gave six months notice, but has also stated that the contractor had to pay the workers in lieu of notice, so guess the contractor Quant didn’t pass this information on. The workers were then pointed in the direction of the new contractor who offered them the same work for 65% less money. This figure is disputed by CUB but logic tells us if it was good money the workers would have signed up. Nobody sits outside picketing in rainy Melbourne for 6 weeks for no reason. The picket is still there and you can visit it to voice support.

Visiting the picket at the front of the Abbotsford Brewery.

Visiting the picket at the front of the Abbotsford Brewery.

Many of these skilled maintenance workers have worked there for years and the hire labour that has been bussed in cannot do a good enough job, reports are that beer production has slowed down as shown by internal documents obtained by SMH. A simple matter of paying for highly skilled qualified workers, right? CUB, owned by the giant multinational SAB Miller, the world’s second biggest brewery, doesn’t seem to think so. A fair days wage for a fair days work. Sounds a bit old fashioned but then again so does some large company/owner exploiting workers. There is a long history of worker exploitation the world over in every industry. Are we really to think that CUB is doing the right thing by these workers?

So what to do? Unions seem to have lost a lot of their power these days and there is always someone willing (or unwilling but seemingly without choice) to do the job cheaper. The unions power has been whittled away by governments and changes to industrial relations law.“The election of the Howard coalition government in 1996 produced overtly anti-union legislation” and twenty years on it hasn’t got much better for unions. Are they still relevant in a non-unionised world where it’s all about labour flexibility? The point is can the unions actually help these guys get their jobs back with good wages? We all seem to believe that collectively we would gain more than by ourselves and yet union membership has declined and more of us are going it alone.

They might even let you play a game of pool with them

They might even let you play a game of pool with them

“In the end, if unions are to be part of the solution, there is much to be done. It requires action in developing and empowering workplace delegates and members, democratising processes with unions, strengthening articulations between levels, developing better framing capabilities, managing governance properly, becoming learning organisations, deepening links and networks with other organisations and movements in the community and civil society, and using such links to develop and articulate an alternative vision of society that reflects progressive values. It is a huge task. But if unions do not do this, who will?” (Peetz David, Australian Review of Public Affairs, Are Australian trade unions part of the solution, or part of the problem?)

Could technology and an informed public replace unions and force the businesses to treat their workers right? Can a social media fuelled boycott do more than the unions? Can it get these guys their jobs back? Multinationals really care about their bottom line, usually more than their workers, but if mistreating workers affects their bottom line then that treatment will change. But can the boycott be kept up long enough to have an affect and once we stop paying attention will the large companies restart the mistreatment? We move into a new world everyday and while we must learn from the past we must also be looking for new ways to overcome old problems that have yet to be solved (at least to the workers satisfaction).

There have been interesting events as of late either affected or well served by social media. The Arab spring used social media to disseminate information and keep people engaged. Union membership might be down but social media membership is up. Perhaps these new tools can have a positive effect on industrial relations.

So with that in mind, what can you do to help these guys out? Start here at the Boycott CUB Facebook page. It will give you all the information on which beers to avoid to let your wallet do the talking to CUB. Like and share, invite your friends to the page, the more people involved the more power the boycott has. If you use twitter or instagram use the hashtags #CUB55 #BoycottCUB and #BattleOfTheBrewery to get the word out. If you don’t know if the beer you drink is a CUB product check the list here, or just check the label for ‘part of the CUB family’.

The boys have now been out of work for over 100 days and fighting this isn’t putting more money in their pockets. They have a Go Fund Me set up so you can help out. Remember the more companies that get away with this sort of thing the more it will become ‘normal’ and the more it will start happening. We need to stand together on this.

There are a bunch of pubs and bars all over the country that are turning off their CUB taps to support these guys, you should let these places know that they are doing the right thing and give them the thumbs up, better yet head down and grab a non CUB beer to show your support. Drinking beer as a political statement? Yes please! If you’re in Melbourne try The Tote, Kent Street, and the Markov. I’m sure you can find a place near you, choose a different product, or if they only have CUB tell them why you won’t be drinking there.

Well I’d love to hear back from you guys whether your are supporting this or not and why. Let me know what beer you’re drinking instead of CUB. I’m drinking Cooper’s Pale Ale or anything by Bridge Road Brewers and 2 Brother’s.

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