Bega, Penrith: workers’ strike over pay dispute enters fourth day

Bega workers in Penrith are entering their fourth day of industrial action over a pay dispute, deepening fears of an imminent Dare iced coffee shortage.

Dozens of staff walked off the job at 9pm on Monday after negotiations failed to secure a 7 per cent pay rise in the first year and 5 per cent in the years following.

Workers have promised to continue striking until a better pay deal is secured.

Bega produces products such as Dare iced coffee and Bega cheese, while the Penrith site employs about 100 people.

The United Workers Union (UWU) has accused the dairy giant of “lowballing” workers after countering their demands with an increased pay offer of 4 per cent in the first year and 3.75 in subsequent years.

“All Bega workers want is a fair pay rise that respects the billion-dollar profits they’ve made possible,” UWU posted to Facebook on Tuesday.

“These factory workers made sure milk didn’t run dry through the pandemic.

“They also accepted a lower pay deal during COVID-19 to support the company through uncertain times.

“Now workers want a fair deal that respects their work.”

UWU national dairy co-ordinator Neil Smith told The Sydney Morning Herald that subsequent shortages of Dare iced coffee would likely produce “a bunch of angry tradies”.

“Workers out at Penrith don’t volunteer to take strike action lightly,” Mr Smith said.

“They’ll be missing out on hundreds of dollars while they’re out the gate, but we need Bega to understand that sub-inflation pay rises aren’t going to cut it when our members are seeing housing costs double and other essentials increase threefold.

“UWU members are resolved to continue to strike for the foreseeable future, unless Bega provides a more acceptable wage offer.

“We need those tradies to know the ball is in Bega’s court.”

This comes as Ingham’s workers continue to strike at sites in Western Australia and South Australia after failing to reach a resolution on pay increases.

“(Ingham’s) workers are ready to take this as far as they need to in order to win a fair pay rise and respect from their employer,” UWU posted to Facebook on Monday.

“Workers are sick of being treated with disrespect by managers and want fair treatment if they are going to come back to work.”

The union also accused Ingham’s of placing “huge tubs of rotting chicken guts” next to striking workers in an alleged attempt to “stink them out”.

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