Senate debates

Wednesday, 17 March 2021



7:35 pm

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

McCormick Australia workers in Victoria are taking strong strike action, and have been for the last three weeks. These are the workers who make the sauces for some of Australia's favourite fast food chains, like McDonald's, Hungry Jacks, Subway and Nando's. These workers are taking action because for the last five years they have been subjected to a wage freeze—five years of hard work and five years without thanks from their company, which is actually very profitable. Now, after working tirelessly throughout the pandemic by putting food in restaurants for all of us, what are they being offered? A wage freeze—a wage freeze and cuts to their penalty rates. What a kick in the guts! When I visited these workers three weeks ago I promised to bring their stories to Canberra, so here are those stories.

Jana has worked at McCormick for 18 years. She enjoys her work so much that she wants to work there until retirement. But she feels totally and completely disrespected by this company today. Mary is 55 and she's been working at McCormick for 33 years. She's a machine operator and she loves her job, but she's being seriously undervalued by this workplace. And there's Steph. Steph has been working at McCormick for 13 years and her mum, Mary France, for 21 years. Their entire household works at McCormick and they currently have no income at all.

I am proud of these workers for taking this action and for demanding the pay and respect they've worked hard for during the last five years. I am proud to stand with these workers. I call on McCormick to come to the table and to give these workers a fair offer. But the stories of these women are just the height of what is happening right across the country in Scott Morrison's Australia: stagnant wages and insecure work. People are saying enough is enough.

We need to get wages moving in this country. This government should be using the pandemic as an opportunity to build a better future, to make us stronger than we were before COVID-19 and not to entrench further insecure work. On our side, we believe that you should be paid fairly for the work that you do and that our road to recovery should be built on a big and bold jobs plan. That is what this country needs going forward, but Scott Morrison can't even come up with a plan for good secure jobs. All he knows, and all the Liberals know, is how to suppress wages, how to freeze super and how to ensure workers are worse off in life. If they force their nasty IR bill through this parliament then more and more workers will face what the McCormick workers are facing: disrespect that runs so deep that people suffer a five-year wage freeze.

What a missed opportunity by this government. This government could be giving people hope, they could be giving people stability and they could be giving people jobs that they can actually plan a future around. Last year we heard the Morrison government thank and praise our essential workers, but we always knew that these were hollow words. This government has yet to show its thanks and gratitude by rewarding workers with any kind of jobs plan—a plan for strong wages and secure jobs that they can count on. Australian workers deserve so much better and McCormick workers deserve so much better. We owe it to them, their employers owe it to them and this government owes it to them.

It shouldn't take workers marching off the job to see a rise in their pay packets. It shouldn't be commonplace for employers to engage in five-year wage freezes. What should be commonplace is for employers to actually respect their workers. But how can we expect to see that when our own government won't respect Australian workers? Australians deserve better.