Penfolds’ Barossa workers on strike

More than 100 workers at two Treasury Wine Estates sites in the Barossa Valley have gone on strike to demand more pay amid cost-of-living pressures.

Dec 13, 2023, updated Dec 13, 2023
Penfolds' cellar door at the Barossa Valley. Photo: SATC.

Penfolds' cellar door at the Barossa Valley. Photo: SATC.

About 125 Treasury Wine Estates employees today walked off the job to demand an improved enterprise bargaining agreement.

The United Workers Union (UWU) said the workers want a 7 per cent raise in the first year of the deal, a 5 per cent raise in the second, and a further 5 per cent in the third.

The union told InDaily the current offer on the table was for a 4.5 per cent raise in the first year, 3 per cent in the second and 3 per cent in the third, and that staff at TWE’s winery and packaging site near Nuriootpa were involved with some of the company’s top brands and drops.

“Our members are keenly aware of the impending vintage and they want to work, but they feel they have been left with no option after failing to receive a reasonable offer,” said UWU national secretary Tim Kennedy.

“Treasury Wines executives might think nothing of sampling a $800 bottle of Grange but workers are in the grips of a cost-of-living crisis and finding it hard to put food on the table.”

Kennedy said the wage increase workers were demanding needed to be understood in the context that those at the Barossa sites took a wage freeze during the pandemic.

“These workers worked during the pandemic with no wage increase – they’re not asking for a lot, just to keep up with the cost-of-living pressure they are currently experiencing,” he said.

“What we need is for ethical investors in this massive winemaker to step up and let the company know they need to treat workers with respect – which includes giving them a living wage.

“As Treasury Wines eyes profit growth, particularly with the potential reopening of trade with Chinese markets, it is crucial that these gains are equitably shared, starting with the workers who have supported the company through thick and thin.”

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In addition to demanding a better EBA offer, Kennedy said workers were standing against “unfair labour practices” at the company; former labour-hire workers took the Penfolds parent company to the Human Rights Commission in April after being sacked without warning. They allege TWE breached the Disability Discrimination Act.

The strike action also follows shareholder rebuke for Treasury Wine Estates. At the company’s recent annual general meeting in October, more than 53 per cent of shareholders voted against the remuneration proposed for executives.

“You have a situation where senior management is upsetting the shareholders and the workers, and then giving below cost-of-living wage increase offers,” Kennedy told InDaily.

“For them to take action it shows there’s a serious concern and stress on the workers there.”

In a statement, Treasury Wine Estates said the number of workers striking was less than half of the Barossa Valley workforce, and there would be no impact on the production of any of the company’s brands, including Penfolds.

“We understand and appreciate the pressures of the current costs of living and believe our recent offer was substantial and fair, with an 11.5 per cent pay increase over three years ensuring team members would remain amongst some of the highest paid in the industry,” a spokesperson said.

“This increase is ahead of the average annual wage growth and in line with forecasted CPI over the covered period. We will continue to negotiate with all bargaining representatives, including the proportion of our team at the Barossa winery and packaging facility that is represented by the United Workers’ Union to achieve an agreement.

“There is no impact to the production of our brands and we have detailed plans in place to minimise any impact to customers as a result of the 28-hour work stoppage by the Union.”

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