CUB’s Abbotsford brewery. Photo: Andrew De La Rue ADLStriking beer workers plan to shut down production at Victoria’s largest brewery next week, four days out from the AFL grand final.
Nanjing Night Net

More than 200 blue-collar staff at the Carlton & United Breweries Abbotsford plant notified the company they will walk off the job for 24 hours from 6am on Tuesday, potentially disrupting grand final beer supplies.

CUB said it would closely monitor the impact of work stoppages on state’s beer stocks, and could use interstate supplies to plug a shortfall.

“We will carefully monitor the stoppages next week and the impact on our beer supplies over coming weeks,” CUB said in a statement. “We do have the ability to use our brewing and logistics network if needed, however, there’s plenty of beer for the grand final.”

Work stoppages could also threaten CUB beer supplies in the run-up to the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival starting next month.

Strikes at CUB Abbotsford, which makes popular brands including Carlton Draught, VB and Crown Lager, come amid stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations and a battle over pay and conditions.

Union members have said they are “disgusted” at management’s offer of a three-year wage freeze.

CUB forklift drivers – covered by the the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union – have already walked off the job twice in recent weeks and will take part in Tuesday’s 24-hour strike

“CFMEU members love enjoying the grand final with a beer as much as the next guy, but this dispute is about whether or not they can provide for their families,” a spokesman said.

“It’s just not good enough for CUB to be clearing hundreds of millions a year in profit, yet asking their workers to take a pay freeze.”

The United Voice union, representing most workers at the brewery, said members were calling for “some increase to their pay each year over the next three years”.

“They want to protect the good working conditions they’ve won over the last 130 years,” a spokesman said. “And they want a fair pay rise to support themselves and their families into the future.”

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said 40 fitters at the brewery will also join the strike after 15 months of separate work bans.

“Despite their desire to sign an agreement and get on with their work, management have kept throwing up roadblocks,”  assistant secretary Craig Kelly said.

Next week’s brewery strike will coincide with work stoppages across Melbourne’s public transport network after Metro staff unveiled plans for a “week of industrial action”. A half-day strike is planned on Thursday from 10am to 2pm, and staff will refuse to check myki tickets on grand final day.

CUB has reassured footy fans heading to the grand final that they won’t be left thirsty.

“We always ensure that the deliveries to the MCG are made well ahead of time and this year is no exception,” a spokeswoman said.

CUB said the Abbotsford brewery had faced a decline in volumes over the past five years as more beer is produced interstate. The company said managers had been talking to employees about the need for long-term sustainability.

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