Dairy processor Murray Goulburn facing union lawsuit over workforce cuts

By Mark Astley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Murray goulburn New south wales Australia

Murray Goulburn's plan to reduce positions is an effort to cut costs by AU$100m for 2012.
Murray Goulburn's plan to reduce positions is an effort to cut costs by AU$100m for 2012.
Australian dairy processor Murray Goulburn Cooperative (MG) is facing legal action over plans to reduce its workforce by over 300 in an effort to reduce costs and improve competitiveness.

The National Union of Workers (NUW) has lodged a dispute with Fair Work Australia – a national workforce relations tribunal - regarding the process by which MG consulted with its members during the examination of cost-cutting actions.

The union action follows an announcement by processor that it intends to reduce its workforce by 12%, including 168 redundancies at its processing and distribution sites by the end of June 2012.

A further 59 redundancies are set to be made at the firm’s head office by the end of September 2012. The remaining 74 roles will be freed-up by natural attrition.

The “reduction in roles” ​has come as part of an effort by the Victoria-based company to improve cut costs for 2012 by AU$100m ($99.8m, €77.5m).

Dispute lodged​ 

Following the processor’s initial announcement, the NUW called for assurances that redeployment and voluntary redundancies would be the priority across MG’s processing and distribution sites.

“It defies logic that shedding 170 workers will bring higher efficiencies. Workers today deserve to feel ripped off that a company which owes its highly profitable status to its dedicated workforce should take this action,”​ said NUW’s Victoria branch secretary Tim Kennedy.

NUW officials have since met with MG management to discuss the planned redundancies.

“Unfortunately the meeting did not make a great deal of progress on the matter of the Cooperative’s decision to make good union jobs redundant in regional Victoria,”​ said NUW industrial officer Adam Portelli.

"The National Union of Workers made it clear that Members and Delegates need to be consulted in this process and that redeployment and voluntary redundancies must be a first priority.”

“However, on the back of today’s meeting the NUW has lodged a dispute with Fair Work Australia regarding the process by which Murray Goulburn wants to consult with members,” ​added Portelli.

Global competitiveness

The MG announcement followed a review of its processing and head office requirements to identify opportunities for productivity gains.

The firm, which processes around a third of Australia’s domestic and for-export milk supply, has informed its staff of the proposed changes and the roles that will be impacted.

“The change program embarked on by Murray Goulburn is even more critical given the recent significant decline in world market prices due to higher global milk supply. This initiative will help reduce the impact of falling world prices and a high Australian dollar on our supplier/shareholders,” ​said Murray Goulburn managing director Gary Helou.

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