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Working class struggle wins the battle against giant multinational brewery

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Alice M.

Savouring their sweet victory and proudly chanting, “The workers united will never be defeated”, the courageous Carlton United Brewery maintenance workers, surrounded by cheering and clapping union and community supporters, walked back to work through the CUB factory gates (Melbourne), having won back their original wages and conditions after 180 days of resilient struggle.

The CUB maintenance workers’ six month fight with the world’s biggest multinational brewing monopoly, Ab InBev, is no mean achievement. It takes place at a time of intense assault by global capital on the working class around the world. The CUB55’s “Battle of the Breweries” struggle succeeded in pushing back the multinational’s attack against brewery workers in Australia. 

The struggle of united and determined CUB workers, the union movement and the wider community is a victory for the entire working class in Australia and a blow to big business. It sent ripples of nervousness through the Boardrooms of many big business and multinational corporations scheming to widen attacks on the working class through contracting and casualisation.

For more than six months, the CUB55 maintenance workers were sitting it out, with their supporters, at the unions and community picket outside the CUB brewery gates in Melbourne.  Preparations were made to be there for Christmas, and dig in for as long as it took to get their jobs back on their original wages and conditions.  They refused to accept the 65% wage cut; and they refused to walk away, find another job and allow the multinational to implement its anti-worker and anti-union plans to hire new casual workers on less pay, and casualise the entire brewery workforce.  

The CUB55 workers knew that this fight was much bigger than the protection of brewery workers’ wages and conditions.  They knew this was an important struggle for all workers in Australia that needed to push back the big business and multinational tactics of contracting and casualisation.  They stood their ground and persisted to fight the biggest global multinational brewing monopoly to protect the hard won wages and conditions of all workers in Australia.  They knew that the outcome of this struggle would have ramifications for the working class in Australia. The resilience of CUB55 workers, their wide support in the union movement and in the community has forced AB InBev to pull back. 

When AB InBev gobbled up the previous multinational owners of CUB, SAB Miller, it didn’t count on the fierce resistance by the organised working class in Australia and the wide public outrage at the treatment of workers by a foreign multinational. It was the determination and unflinching resilience of the CUB55 and the union movement and the wide public support that forced AB InBev to retreat.

Union EBA protects brewery workers’ original wages and conditions
The CUB55 maintenance workers’ original wages and conditions are protected in the new 3 year EBA.  The new EBA applies to any labour contractor or sub-contractor during the life of the agreement – including changes in contractors.  

The CUB brand’s dominant position in the Australian market was the main attraction for AB InBev, the biggest global beer monopoly, in its takeover of CUB.  Ironically, it was also the popularity and loyalty of working people in Australia to the local CUB brand and the rights of brewery workers that helped the CUB55 succeed in the fight against the multinational.

The loyalty of the people to the local working people’s iconic Australian beer brand, protection of local jobs and the manufacturing industry in this country, worked against the multinational’s schemes.  It showed where the workers’ and unions’ real strength in struggle can be found.

AB InBev’s alternative of scaling down its production of beer in Australia, or closing down in the face of strong workers’ and  union resistance and importing beer from low cost countries, would have been strongly and widely resisted and was no longer an option for the world’s biggest brewing multinational.

The CUB55 victory is gloriously celebrated by many workers. The repeated experience and history of working class struggle shows that workers’ hard won gains are only temporary and big business constantly plans new tactics to come back and take away any gains made by workers.  This is capitalism, and the struggle between labour and capital never ceases. 

It is inherent to capitalism to relentlessly push down wages and conditions to maximise bigger profits.  And it is only working class struggle and resistance that can win concessions from capital and defend hard won gains.  The CUB55 struggle shows the huge capacity and potential of the working class and its allies in the wider community to unite and mobilise against multinational corporations’ attacks on workers’ rights, and to defend local jobs and local industries.

It shows the huge potential of a great united movement in the struggle for anti-imperialist independence and a socialist Australia where the working class will run this country for working people, not the multinational corporations.

Extend the victory of the resilient CUB55 workers and their supporters - Kick out the greedy multinational corporations from Australia!


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