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Dare iced coffee shortage warning as Bega workers strike for higher pay

Dozens of Bega workers are on strike this week to push for a wage rise that they view is in line with cost of living increases as unions warn of more industrial action if profitable companies don’t pay workers a fairer wage.

Unionised workers at Bega’s site in Penrith, NSW, which produces Dare iced coffee and Dairy Farmers milk and employs about 100 people, began protected industrial action on Sunday evening. Industrial action will be ongoing if the dairy giant does not meet demands for a 7 per cent pay rise in the first year and 5 per cent in subsequent years.

Workers at the Penrith site of dairy giant Bega are striking for higher pay.

Workers at the Penrith site of dairy giant Bega are striking for higher pay.

Bega has countered the demand with a 4 per cent rise in the first year and 3.75 per cent in subsequent years, but the United Workers Union is urging the company to come to the table with a better offer.

United Workers Union national dairy co-ordinator Neil Smith said the strike action would impact Dare iced coffee production and result in “a bunch of angry tradies”.

The United Workers Union is warning that the strike action could result in Dare iced coffee shortages.

The United Workers Union is warning that the strike action could result in Dare iced coffee shortages.Credit: Candice Barnes

“Workers out at Penrith don’t volunteer to take strike action lightly. They’ll be missing out on hundreds of dollars while they’re out the gate. But we need Bega to understand that sub-inflation pay rises aren’t going to cut it when our members are seeing housing costs double and other essentials increase threefold,” said Smith.

“UWU members are resolved to continue to strike for the foreseeable future, unless Bega provides a more acceptable wage offer.

“We need those tradies to know the ball is in Bega’s court.”

This is not the first time Bega workers have walked off the job in pursuit of higher wages. Last year, Western Australia workers walked off Bega’s Bentley site in Perth over a 2.75 per cent annual pay rise offer that the United Workers Union said was not in line with east coast colleagues.

The industrial action at Bega follows similar strikes at major poultry supplier Ingham’s sites in Western Australia and South Australia, with the union and the company approaching a resolution on Tuesday evening. Ingham’s workers are pushing for a 6 per cent annual wage increase for three years.


United Workers Union national secretary Tim Kennedy said workers were “more determined than they have been for a long time” to get recognition for their contributions to company profits and warned of a broader surge in industrial action as grocery, energy, rent and mortgage bills climb.

“All workers have to make some really hard choices walking up and down the aisle of supermarkets,” Kennedy said.

“I think we will see workers and unions use these opportunities to try get a fairer share of the enormous profit share that’s been occurring in businesses.

“Companies that actually understand that and react to that will do well, and companies that don’t may well have disruption.”

The $803 million ASX-listed Bega notched a 12 per cent revenue increase last financial year to $3.4 billion but higher interest rates and farmgate milk prices drove net profits down 38 per cent to $28.5 million.

Bega executive chairman Barry Irvin flagged last month that its portfolio of products, which include Vegemite, Pura milk, Daily Juice, Yoplait and Farmers Union yoghurt, would be subject to some further price rises as the business continued to contend with higher energy, logistics and fuel costs.

The company’s remuneration report will be released in coming weeks ahead of its annual general meeting on October 24.

Bega has been contacted for comment.