Shoot the shit out of them

Senate Hearing into Corporate Avoidance of Fair Work Laws exposes CUB’s union-busting battle plan.

Sensational revelations about CUB’s strategy to “shoot the shit out of” and “starve out” the 55 sacked CUB workers were uncovered by the latest Senate Inquiry hearing.

A diary page from management at CUB’s Abbotsford plant revealed that 16 full weeks after the company coordinated the sacking of their 55 maintenance workers, the beer giant was still strategising to ‘win a war’ against the unemployed workers.

The diary shines a light on just how calculated, aggressive and coercive corporate tactics against workers can be in 2017.

‘Starve them out’

The Senate Committee requested CUB management front up, but the managers and lawyers from the company weren’t aware the revealing document had made its way out of the office.

Media and members of the public in the Inquiry room were shocked when Labor Senator Gavin Marshall, chair of the Inquiry, asked one manager “What do you mean by 'shooting the shit out of them’?”

Senator Marshall continued “'Starving them out'. The other arrow goes to defamation. Did you have a plan to sue people for defamation?”

Manager: “Sorry, I am still trying to understand what this is all about. I honestly cannot recall.”

“Well, it is your diary and your notes. I am actually trying to work out what it is all about. I thought you would know, given you wrote it. What did you mean by 'play by the rules that they're not prepared to play by,' when you talk about ethics and morality?”

Manager: “I will have to take that question on notice.”

The confused manager said he wasn’t sure what the Senator was referring to, even after he was passed the diary, cameras flashing in the background.

The answer to whether the diary was in fact the manager’s was revealed when the man, grilling complete, went to keep the book.

“Sorry, that is not yours; I have privilege over that. You will return it to me, because it is mine” declared the chair. “[But] I am glad you acknowledged it was yours.”

Alan Dinon is a retired electrical maintenance worker at the Abbotsford Brewery for 40 years who attended the inquiry hearing.

The events of the day made him angry, but he said they gave him insight into the company’s mentality at the time.

“Well now we know how far they were willing to go to beat us down. We could sense this from the picket line. They waged total war on us.”

“I worked there for 40 years. I gave my life to that company. It’s disgusting what they did to us. No other worker should have to go through it,” said Alan.

Legal games

Senator Marshall and other senators grilled the managers on their legal strategy – asking whether their plan was to pile on costs of legal fees and seek to defame the workers and their representatives. The leaked diary note talks about doing ‘what they’re [the workers] not prepared to do’.

The union is very aware of the traps that corporations set to provoke workers and union officials into responding in any way a company can sue them into submission for.

Lib’s confused attack can’t cloud CUB55 sunshine

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, who arrived late to the Inquiry, with her phone on speaker and still on a call, made one contribution at the hearing.

Senator McKenzie confusingly alleged that there had been industrial action since the CUB55 returned to work. In fact, there have been no negative relations between the CUB workers and management since they returned to work in December last year.

Senator McKenzie was told by the company that they weren’t aware of any conflict at the plant. She asked no further questions.

Despite the concerning revelations of management’s views during the events of last year, the company was at pains to communicate to the Senators how much they now valued the workers at Abbotsford. CUB was taken over by the largest brewer in the world mid-way through the dispute, when workers noticed a discernible change in corporate attitude.

The new company’s representatives at the hearing repeatedly reiterated that CUB had learned from the error of their ways. Out of the campaign to reinstate the workers at CUB55, everybody who supported them should also be very pleased to know CUB’s lessons have led to the following commitments from CUB management:

  • to take a more collaborative and consultative approach with their workers and unions
  • established a monthly consultative committee with management and union delegates
  • will require workers engaged by CUB to have genuinely represented Agreements.

Time to fix broken laws

ETU economist Ruth Kershaw said Senator Marshall, a former ETU Victoria Assistant Secretary, had shown exceptional dedication to working Australians in his role of Chair of the Inquiry.

“Senator Marshall relied upon rarely used parliamentary privilege to uncover the grubby details of corporate tactics against workers, usually deeply buried from the public sight” she said.

She says Turnbull’s Liberals continue to turn a blind eye, or give tacit endorsement, to corporations’ use of calculated, unethical, heavily-resourced tactics to deny workers’ rights to lawful collective agreements.

Secretary Troy Gray said the time had come to overhaul Australia’s labour laws.

“These ‘Shoot and Starve’ tactics exposed in the Senate Inquiry are actually allowed by our current laws. Clearly our laws are not working properly and they must be changed.”

“Malcolm Turnbull will either act to prevent the rise of corporate power in Australia in favour of fairness, or I think he will be replaced with someone who will.”