SPC Ardmona Just Released Details Of Its Work Conditions: They Get Four Weeks Holiday, Not The Nine Some Claimed

Treasurer Joe Hockey and Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz have been critical of SPC Ardmona’s employment conditions. Photo Matt Roberts;Getty Images

SPC Ardmona has released details of its deal with workers at its embattled Shepparton canning factory, describing claims by the federal Government that the employment conditions were the cause of its difficulties as “mistaken”.

Most notably, claims that SPC Ardmona employees get nine weeks of annual leave were rejected. Holiday leave is in line with the national standard of 20 days.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has described the worker’s conditions as “astounding”, while Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz called them “overly generous” as the Government rejected calls to inject $25 million in Federal funds into the struggling cannery.

In a media release SPC Ardmona Managing Director Peter Kelly said the company had made significant productivity gains in recent months, with nearly one-third of the workforce being made redundant since 2011, and that the total cost of allowances in 2013 was $116,467 – less than 0.1% of the business’s cost of goods for the year.

“We are doing our best to reduce all costs across the business, however the serious problems that have beset SPCA have not been because of labour costs and certainly not from the allowances, a fact borne out by the Productivity Commission’s recent analysis,” Mr Kelly said.

He blamed a “perfect storm” of factors such as the high Australian dollar, which jumped 50% in four years, which destroyed exports, combined with a flood of cheap imports, for damaging the business.

“In that period market share of private label canned fruit grew to 58% today, while SPC Ardmona canned fruit share declined to 33%. Our export market volumes declined by 90% in the past five years,” Mr Kelly said.

He also blamed the “dumping” of imported fruit in Australia, from countries such as China and the EU, which imposed tariffs of up to 20% on SPC Ardmona products.

“We have also seen examples of imported Chinese-produced and processed fruit carrying lead levels which are twice the allowable standards in Australia – how do these products get into our markets without being tested and banned?”

SPC Ardmona’s point-by-point rebuttal of recent claims is printed below

Claim: SPC Ardmona employees get “over generous” allowances.
Fact: The total allowances paid to SPC production staff in 2013 was $116,467, which represents less than 0.1%
of the business’s cost of goods for the year.

Claim: There is a generous “wet” allowance of 58 cents per hour for cleaners
Fact: Zero ($0.00) paid in 2013.

Claim: SPC Ardmona employees get nine weeks paid leave a year.
Fact: SPCA employees get 20 days annual leave.

Claim: a five-day Melbourne Cup long weekend.
Fact: Production staff accrue rostered days off (RDOs) during the year which SPCA requires them not to take during the peak season. Instead these RDOs are taken at the start of November, the optimum time for a plant shutdown to allow maintenance in preparation for the canning season from December to April. RDOs are not additional leave.

Claim: Sick leave is cashed out each year.
Fact: This was removed from the EBA in 2012.

Claim: Loading, or shift penalties are above the award.
Fact: SPCA’s are the same as industry standards and common to many Australian EBAs. Afternoon shift is at 20% and night shift at 30%.

Claim: Loadings on top of overtime.
Fact: Production workers do almost zero overtime.

Claim: Redundancy is in excess of the award.
Fact: This old condition was reduced in 2012 to a 52 week cap