After six months of negotiations and several negative votes, fruit processor SPC has concluded an enterprise bargaining agreement with many of its factory staff.
Talks to update the agreement started more than six months ago, and several times a proposal was voted down, leading to a breakdown in talks in March.
However, the company announced it had reached agreement on Tuesday for a three-year deal to be sent to the Fair Work Commission for ratification.
SPC chief executive Robert Giles said the company was pleased to have reached an outcome that worked well for the workforce and would support the business as it continued to grow.
“We’d like to thank the AMWU for their time and willingness to negotiate in what has been, and continues to be, unprecedented times,” Mr Giles said.
“Throughout the pandemic, it’s become even more clear that for Australia’s food security we need to be less reliant on imports and we must stand on our own two feet and increase our local production of goods.
“To ensure that there is no break in the global supply chain, we need to work together with unions and governments to ensure the long-term security and viability of food manufacturing in Australia.”
Mr Giles said there had been some uncertainty in the workforce under the previous ownership about the future of the company. He said he hoped the company had demonstrated that it was in the business for the long term and was investing in the future.
“We had a disagreement in March but we pulled together with the AMWU to get a resolution with the members,” he said.
Mr Giles said the last vote attracted support of more than 80 per cent, well above the 50 per cent required.
“We want to continue to work with the skill base and change some of the practices which have always been with the business,” he said.
Mr Giles said the company was focused on matching skill sets with the new opportunities that would be created in a more sophisticated, modernised plant.
“There are terms in there to ensure that we can ensure people have the right skills for the roles they are doing,” he said.
“There is no doubt that in the future the workforce will need to have high levels of technical skills.”
Mr Giles declined to give details of the agreement or say whether a pay increase was included.
This year SPC acquired Australian manufacturing superfood brand PomLife, assuming ownership of the manufacturing processing plant, and expanding the business's manufacturing capacity to meet the changing food tastes of consumers.
The business also announced a joint venture with German-based Döhler. The partnership will jointly develop intellectual property here in Australia to deliver culinary experiences across the globe.