Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's Sunday, and time for a roast chicken dinner, and Miranda the Devine, who deserves a decent roasting ...

(Above: feeling like a little dumpster diving? Have we got the factory for you).

First an aside.

Only the gigantic fertility Ponzi scheme known as the Catholic church could celebrate the arrival of seven billion people in the world with a column which has an anxiety attack about the world's declining birth rate, and the likely affect on materialist consumption and wealth that might produce.

Yep, it's Sunday, and so the week-old thoughts of Cardinal George Pell can be found at the Sunday Terror under the unseemly header Going Down.

Whatever will happen to the Catholic church if the faithful slow up their breeding? Could it be the front runner as the first Church to become old before it could accumulate even more riches?

Meanwhile the Sydney Anglicans are maintaining the rage about euthanasia in any form (What's voluntary about it?) just as Fairfax brings forward a story about the woes of the aged, in Assault claims in aged care double. Better get active Anglicans ...

But enough of religion, it's a Sunday, so it's on to the roast chicken dinner, and what better time to contemplate the state of the union, thanks to Miranda the Devine.

You see whenever there's something wrong in the world, it's the fault of the unions, and that's how you get a header As the supermarket battle rages, unions are behaving as if it's plunder time in the last days of Rome.

The last days of Rome? Well the Sunday Terror liked the Devine's thinking so well, they gave the piece a little digital splash:

Now there's a picture of someone worn down by constant honest toil and hard work.

The Devine takes an obligatory walk through the painful situation of the comfortable cozy supermarket duopoly that currently runs Australia, starting off with this rhetorical opener:

Who would want to run a legitimate small business in Australia at the moment - especially one that supplies food to Coles and Woolworths?

Legitimate small business? What are we talking about here? Perhaps the Baiada chicken dispute?

Baiada is run by BRW Rich-Lister John Camilleri with his family boasting a total wealth of $495 million (up from $372 million last year). In 2009, the company pulled off the landmark acquisition of Bartter-Steggles, leaving the firm with a massive 35% of the Australian poultry market. (Liberals exposed as kingmakers in bitter chicken spat)

Uh huh. Must be, that sounds like a really small business, and John Camilleri sounds like he's on struggle street, on his very last legs. By golly, already I'm deeply mired in sympathy for him and his suffering.

And so, of course, is the Devine:

After losing hundreds of thousands of dollars during the two-week picket, Baiada, the major supplier of chicken to Coles, capitulated to the National Union of Workers last week with a deal believed to include an 8 per cent wage increase, no contract staff and a doubling of redundancy entitlements. Victorian Farmers' Federation's poultry spokesman Mike Shaw fears further pressure on chicken farmers ahead. "We know the supermarkets have been screwing the processors," he said last week.

You see, it's the last days of Rome:

While workers in private industry just hope to keep their jobs in a grim economy, sitting on 3 per cent wage increases and moving to four day weeks to help cut costs, unions are behaving as if it's plunder time in the last days of Rome.

Uh huh. If it's the last days of Rome, what does that make John Camilleri and his family? Tin pot antipodeans of the Tiberius kind? How about Caligula and his horse?

Of course the workers are making out in a shocking and extravagant way:

Two months ago, Hua cut her finger to the bone when she was boning a chicken at work. Her friend Dao watched in horror as Hua tried to mask her pain and bandage the finger to keep it hidden, knowing the injury could deem her useless to her employer and get her sacked.
Hua is one of the workers at the Baiada chicken factory in Laverton North where, against the odds, striking workers won their campaign this week. On a number of visits to the picket line, I listened to numerous horror stories of workers who worked in brutal conditions and risked their lives for as little as $8 an hour.

Their union, the National Union of Workers, estimated that at any one time, at least 10 per cent of staff were absent due to work-related injury.

The Baiada workers won their demand for temporary staff to be paid the same rates as permanent staff and for an improvement in rights to redundancy and representation.
(Rare victory for workers whose dignity was cut to the bone).

Eight bucks an hour? How positively, indecently Roman of them.

But okay, let's forget the temp workers, the rock ins willing to work for a few shekels. What's the dispute actually about in monetary terms?

Baiada workers are on around $17-19 per hour for permanent employees, with those on casual or other contracts often doing the same work for less. Staff are asking for a 5 per cent pay increase, the company has offered 3 per cent. (here)

Uh huh. Well if you take nineteen bucks an hour, we're talking about 57 cents versus 95 cents an hour. There's a gap between offer and request of 38 cents. How shockingly Roman, how indulgently and debauchedly Roman, right up there with spa baths and running water. Soon enough we'll all be down to our last squillion.

But do go on:

... what the debate is really about is security of work and equal treatment for all employees. The increasing numbers of workers employed as cash in hand, contract or labour hire workers at the plant has undermined pay, conditions and safety for the permanent workforce.

As it so happens, the pond had an extended family member who worked in a chicken processing plant for awhile in recent times, and the pond has seen the work done by chicken processing workers up close. It's messy, ugly, tedious, smelly, and it can be dangerous, if plants prefer speed of processing to safety.

Of all the situations to talk about making out like luxurious Romans, chicken processing is about the last one the metaphor would fit, and it's a measure of the Devine's complacent, indulged, fat cat, sitting on a handsome salary package from Rupert Murdoch screech that she hasn't bothered to head off to the factory, and experience what the workers experience, before giving vent to her fury.

How about a week on the line Devine, and giving up the Murdoch package for the chicken plucker's weekly pluckings? Get down there with Dao and Hua (names changed to protect the innocent).

There had been funny goings on at the factory:

The Age also reported on graphic images taken from inside the Laverton North plant earlier this year and before the strike. Those images showed cockroaches, maggots and the inappropriate storage of raw chickens.

Oh and there's also this:

A worker, Sarel Singh, was decapitated at the Laverton North plant in 2010.

And this:

The National Union of Workers has said cash-in-hand workers were paid as little as $8 an hour at Baiada in Laverton North, and a mass meeting of workers yesterday welcomed the news of a two-year collective deal with cries of ''no more $10 [an hour]''. (here)

Thanks Wyndham Point Cook Weekly. It's nice to get a few other insights into the story rather than those on view in a fat cat Murdoch minion column written by a woman with only one eye.

Meanwhile, as is always, the Devine jumps the shark and nukes the fridge:

Former foreign minister Alexander Downer describes the government as a "wholly-owned subsidiary of the unions", and we will see the effects next weekend at Labor's annual conference, where unions still control 50 per cent of votes and will be pressing home the advantage.

Alexander bloody Downer. Lord Downer of Baghdad himself. Yes he's terribly close to the plight of Victorian chicken pluckers.

And then there's this rhetorical flourish for a closer:

They are like parasites so greedy they don't realise they are killing the host.

Uh huh. Well it's a fair guess as to who's being greedy in the matter of retailing, farming and food processing, and it's a fair bet that the last ones to be making out like bandits are the chicken workers' struggling along in the work environment and on the wages offered by Baiada.

But hey, nuking the rhetorical fridge is fun. Let's do it again:

So where does that leave the consumer? With cheaper milk, staler bread, and ultimately less choice, as your favourite brands disappear and you are left with home-brands, Soviet style, and prices still rising.

Uh huh. So those paragons of the capitalist system, Coles and Woolies, doing what capitalists do, are actually Soviet agencies at work to deliver staler bread ... but it's the workers at Baiada who cop the rap.

I swear to the long absent lord, each time you read the Devine you'll lose a few brain cells, or resolve never to pay a dime for a Murdoch publication again.

Meanwhile, if you want The Age's insight into conditions at the plant, head off to Inside Baiada, dire picture of health, safety (warning, forced video at other end of link).

Roman times indeed. Let 'em eat maggots and cockies.

Never had it so good.

Why in my day I was up at 4 am to start work, and glad of a meal of bitumen and cardboard to get the muscles flexing ... but that was when Romans was Romans ...

But we do thank the Devine for her offer of returning half her salary package to her struggling employer. That's the Roman spirit!

(Below: and now it's time for that roast chicken dinner, photos as featured in The Age, link above).


  1. Yes. Devine really is vile. It's extraordinary that someone who has led such a privileged life could begrudge a few extra cents to those poor bastards who do such unpleasant work.

    Incidentally, after seeing that picture just the thought of chicken makes me feel slightly ill.

  2. As someone who lives just round the road from this factory, I'm torn between not wanting to buy any chicken from their factory, and not wanting to add to the financial troubles of those unfortunate workers. I hope the outing of their bosses' malpractices in the national press leads to some improvement in their conditions.

    You would know, although you didn't include it in your quote, that after Sarel Singh was decapitated the Baiada workers were required to hose out any remains from the machines and - resume work. Within TWO HOURS. I have no words for Devine, writing about that company in those terms.

    Thank you for your lengthy, entertaining posts. I don't know how you do it.

  3. Sorry PB, and the thing is Cast Iron Balcony, after reading the prolix pompous prattling preening prose of Lord Downer of Baghdad, I thought anyone could have a go and rabbit on about anything and still not sound as silly as a broken two bob Downer watch ...

    As for the matter of Sarel Singh, thanks, and more details can be found in the links, and sometimes it's really hard to be light-hearted about the commentariat when confronted by the most wretched and sordid behaviour ...


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