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Mars workers stepping up industrial action

Last year the number of industrial disputes in the food manufacturing sector reached an all-time high, and 2012 doesn’t look like its getting any calmer, with Mars Chocolates in Ballarat announcing it will increase action in coming weeks.

Statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistic (ABS) showed the number of employees involved in industrial disputes was 66 400 in the September quarter, up from 14700 in the June quarter.

A reported 101 300 working days were lost due to industrial disputation in the September quarter 2011 while the June quarter saw 66 200.

Yesterday Fair Work Australia gave approval for Tip Top Bakers in Canning Vale to begin industrial action, calling for a 15 per cent pay increase and more breaks.

Workers at Mars’ Ballarat factory have been negotiating for a new pay deal and better conditions for eight months.

Yesterday they protested outside the Victorian factory gates, and Australian Manufacturing and Workers Union organiser, Colin Muir, told the ABC they will continue to do so until the manufacturer resumes negotiations.

"The workers voted today to add to their industrial action and increase that and asked us to try and get the company to engage in negotiations as a matter of urgency and at this stage we haven’t heard anything from them," he said.

General manager of Mars, Michael Ryan, has rejected employees’ claims they should be getting better pay, labelling the unions demands as excessive.

"We know our pay and conditions are set well above the community average and on top of that the existing agreement ensures that everyone get pay increases well above inflation," he said.

"What we are seeing is union demands that are really unreasonable.

"For example, five weeks of paid leave."

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