September 25, 2023
Australia faces possible chicken shortage as workers strike for pay raise
A potential chicken shortage looms over Australia as over 1,000 workers at Inghams, the nation's largest poultry producer, prepare to initiate industrial action seeking an 18% pay increase, news.com.au reported.
Workers employed by Inghams, a key supplier to prominent retail and fast-food chains such as Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, KFC, McDonald's, and Subway, located in South Australia and Western Australia, are planning a 24-hour strike on Friday. Their primary demand is a 6% annual pay raise for the next three years, equating to an additional AUD 1.50 (~US$0.97; AUD 1 = US$0.64) per hour for each worker.
The United Workers Union (UWU) has stated that unless Inghams agrees to a "respectable agreement," further industrial action may follow, which could significantly impact chicken supplies.
Tim Kennedy, the UWU national secretary, said that such actions affect Ingham's operations and could disrupt the entire supply chain, including farmers, due to the industry's just-in-time production process.
Kennedy argued that Inghams can afford the proposed pay increase, citing the company's substantial profits, partly attributed to rising chicken prices. In August, Inghams cautioned consumers about the possibility of another chicken price increase due to elevated feed and energy costs, with prices already having surged by 12% in the past year.
Inghams reported impressive financial results, with fiscal 2023 revenue rising by 12.2% to AUD 3.04 billion (~US$1.9 billion) and net profit surging by 72% to AUD 60.4 million (US$38.8 million).
Responding to the strike action, the UWU accused Inghams of trying to intimidate workers by issuing "propaganda to confuse workers about their protected rights" and threatening lockouts if they participated.
Kennedy asserted that Inghams should utilise its substantial profits to offer a "fair wage" to its workers, who currently earn AUD 25 (~US$16.09) per hour. He criticised Inghams for opting for "obfuscation and intimidation" instead of fairly compensating its workforce, who have contributed to the company's significant profits by working diligently under challenging conditions.
Inghams' counteroffer to the union's demand for a 6% annual pay increase for the next three years is reportedly less than 4% for South Australian and Western Australian employees. South Australian workers have been offered increases of 3.9% in the first year and 3.5% in the second and third years, while Western Australian workers have been presented with increases of 3.85%, 3.45%, and 3.5% over the same three-year period.
Additionally, the union is seeking the right for casual workers to convert to permanent employment after six months, a demand that Inghams has rejected.