19 October 2023

Wilmar Sugar making maximum profits and workers on poverty line

Electrical Trades Union (ETU) members at Wilmar Sugar are struggling to put fuel in their cars to travel to work, while the company expects to return over $1 billion in profits this financial year.

Union members are currently negotiating their Enterprise Agreement (EA), which expires on 1 December 2023. Wilmar is currently offering a 4% wage increase for the coming year. With inflation currently running at over 7%, this would equate a 3-4% wage cut per year, not to mention how far behind workers have fallen with minimal pay rises for consecutive years. The process has brought to light the significant financial stress many Wilmar workers are under.

“We have members struggling to pay the weekly bills, put food on the table, even people who can barely afford the fuel they need to get to work in the morning,” ETU organiser Liam Sharkey says. “There has been a record high staff turnover at the mills, and workers have been forced to resign because of financial pressures.”

“It’s a pretty bad state of affairs when workers can’t even afford to get to their place of work in the morning.

“What’s more, there are sub-contractors working alongside Wilmar employees who are getting paid two to three times the rate. The company cried poor throughout COVID, and workers received very small wage increases the past few years. But workers are now saying that enough is enough,” says Sharkey.

Wilmar Sugar boasted a profit of $900 million in FY2022, and they expect profits well in excess of $1 billion for FY2023, and into the future, with sugar prices at a record high.

A report on Michael West in 2019 stated that Wilmar paid zero dollars in tax over the four year period examined, where it made a total income of $6 740 530 510. The company is earning a startling amount of money and paying no taxes.

“The company has made itself an enemy of the local community,” says Sharkey. “A job in the sugar mills used to be a secure and well paid position for locals. We’re a far cry from those days now. Because of the high number of workers who have left, the workforce is continuously short-staffed.

“I’ve heard from workers that they feel like they are living at the mills, working long hours to pick up the slack. They have no work-life balance, no time to spend with their families, and the company can’t attract new workers because the pay is so low,” says Sharkey.

Wilmar workers are at the end of their tether, saying they are already struggling to survive as is. The lowball offer from the company in light of their billion dollars in profit is insulting. Union density across the mills is increasing as the negotiations continue and the company refuses to come to the table. Workers have had enough, and they aren’t backing down.

For more information, call Liam Sharkey on 0498 278 976 or Kristin Perissinotto on 0448 633 858.