Meeting grape expectations

As the 2013 vintage continues the Australian Workers’ Union says there is unrest in the industry.
As the 2013 vintage continues the Australian Workers’ Union says there is unrest in the industry.

CONCERNS over the correct payment of North East winery workers has prompted a union to stage a public meeting next week.

The Australian Workers’ Union will host a gathering at the community hall at Oxley from 4.30pm Wednesday to discuss whether winery workers, such as grape pickers, cellar hands and bottlers, are being adequately supported.

The union’s Victorian assistant secretary Ben Davis said concerns centred on overtime being paid after 38 hours was worked for the week and whether afternoon and night-time shift loadings of 15 per cent during vintage were being met.

The Melbourne-based official said both entitlements were part of a wine industry award.

“I’m not saying employers are all out there trying to deliberately rip people off,” Mr Davis said.

“We just want to take the temperature up there a bit and see where people are at and whether we can help.”

Mr Davis also suggested North East winery workers were generally being paid $100 per week less than their counterparts in other grape growing areas.

He said union-negotiated enterprise agreements were giving entry level workers in other regions $750 a week income compared to $650 in the North East.

Winemakers of Rutherglen chairman Damien Cofield said he was not aware of workers being paid $100 less and believed bosses were abiding with award conditions with no ‘‘unrest” or “disgruntled employees”.

“I haven’t heard of any negativity, it’s not a big thing that’s been talked about internally as far as I know,” Mr Cofield said.

“I wasn’t aware that they were holding a meeting, I haven’t heard anything about it.”

Mr Davis said he believed job security for wine industry employees had improved in recent years.

“I think the wine industry over the last five to 10 years has gone through a massive period of consolidation and a lot of the hobby farms have got out because there are more grapes on the market than is needed to make wine,” he said.

“But also at the top end there’s been great consolidation which leaves a lot of North East wineries in the middle, be they Rutherglen, Milawa or Nagambie.”