Workers at one of the country’s largest egg packaging facilities, Huhtamaki, will go on strike this Friday, affecting the daily packaging of 7.5 million eggs, and disrupting supply to supermarkets, cafés and restaurants nationwide.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) has given notice of rolling stoppages in Huhtamaki’s Preston factory in Melbourne, as well as bans on quality checks, shift handovers, housekeeping and cleaning duties across the entire workplace.

Huhtamaki is responsible for 70 per cent of Australia’s egg packaging, however, due to ongoing COVID-19 effects on international supply chains restricting imported supplies of egg cartons into Australia, the company has stepped up and supplying around 90 per cent of Australia’s egg cartons.

The union is demanding four per cent annual pay rises each year for the next three years.

Huhtamaki Fiber Packaging Oceania general manager John Sartori said the company recognises its employees’ rights to bargain collectively and have continued to work in “good faith” with the CFMMEU for eight months in the hopes of reaching a “mutually satisfactory outcome for both parties”.

“Regrettably, we’ve had no success. We urge the Union to work with us to resolve this before any more undue harm is caused to Australian businesses and farmers,” said Sartori.

“In a year that has left more than 900,000 Australians, including seven per cent of Victorians, out of a job, the CFMMEU is demanding a four per cent pay rise despite earning almost double the average annual salary of other manufacturing workers in Australia.”

“In the middle of a recession, the Union’s action threatens an industry that employs 3,839 people and generates $900 million each year. Domestic supply chains – already under significant strain – are facing further disruptions from the actions of the Union, placing additional pressure on Australian farmers and threatening the supply of eggs to businesses in the food and hospitality industries which are desperately trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic.”

Huhtamaki is offering a 2.6 per cent per year increase over the next three years back paid to the beginning of the year, “on top of generous benefits already enjoyed by its workers, including Double Award payments and 62.5 per cent leave loading”, the company said.

“The offer is in line with pay rises in comparable Australian manufacturing industries and results in the Preston factory workers earning well above industry standards.”

PKN contacted the CFMMEU for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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