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At least 1400 dairy workers across Victoria will begin “indefinite” strikes as early as Wednesday if agreements are not reached with dairy processors in a meeting on Tuesday.

Plant workers have demanded increased pay as they continue to feel the sting from the cost of living crisis, with some full-time workers reporting they still require Centrelink payments to make ends meet.

This follows last week’s statewide industrial action, the “biggest dairy strike in living memory”, in which more than 1500 plant workers and milk tank drivers walked off the job.

Workers took industrial action against Saputo, Fonterra, Lactalis and Peters Ice Cream for not sharing “booming” profits.

United Workers Union (UWU) national secretary Tim Kennedy warned dairy giants last week that many UWU members had already voted for 24-hour rolling stoppages should the dispute continue.

In a statement released on Monday, Mr Kennedy said last week’s 48-hour strike demonstrated workers were “serious” about reaching pay agreements.

“(Workers) are sick of the mushroom treatment from these multinationals after more than six months of talks,” he said.

“In meetings with the four major processors this week workers expect fair offers to their reasonable demands of a 5 per cent pay increase each year for three years, and they will not put up with being short-changed.

“Dairy workers want a fair share of the profits being made by these profitable companies after accepting low wages to back their companies during the pandemic.”

If an outcome is not reached in Tuesday’s meeting, 320 workers at Saputo Allansford near Warrnambool are set to take 24-hour stoppages on Wednesday and Thursday.

The 560 workers at Saputo sites in Cobram, Leongatha, Kiewa and Laverton have also endorsed further industrial action as well as workers at Lactalis Longwarry.

More than 200 workers at Peters Ice Cream in Mulgrave will decide on Monday whether they will carry out further strikes.

Dave Chapman, one of the workers in Mulgrave, said this was the “most united (dairy workers) have ever been”.

“For a long time we have been feeling left behind, neglected, not recognised by the company with what we have been offered,” he said.

“The message should get through to management that we’re not being unreasonable and that we are united in what we are after.”

On Friday, the Australian Dairy Producers Federation (ADPF) said it was “extremely disappointing” that the unions chose to strike during Victoria’s peak milk production period.

“Even before this strike action, dairy processors are contending with 30-year lows in milk volumes of eight billion litres, increased and persistent input costs, and a 30 per cent surge in cheap imports,” ADPF executive director Janine Waller said.

Ms Waller said the continuity of dairy product supply to supermarket shelves would be ensured despite consumer concerns sparked by the industrial action.

These comments came after ADPF president John Williams told Today on Friday morning that rising milk prices could be passed on to consumers if a deal was not struck with workers.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU), who supported the milk tank drivers’ strike against dairy giant Saputo, said a “landmark in-principle deal” had been reached on Friday.

Workers walked off the job early last week over pay disputes and job security concerns.

The TWU hailed the agreement as the “biggest win in the last decade”.

“(This deal) secures strong regional jobs and solidifies strong wage growth and conditions that will take workers into the future,” the union said in a Facebook post.

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By Rahul

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