Biscuit workers at the Arnott’s condemned factory in Burwood went on strike last Friday, amid claims that the firm’s managers had negotiated a secret redundancy deal that discriminated against them. The employees have now been ordered to attend an emergency Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) hearing at 3 pm today.

Arnott’s announced its plans to close the factory later next year last month. The closure is expected to entail the loss of more than 600 jobs and agreement over redundancy packages for the contracted and casual workers has been hard to reach.

No biscuits have left the factory since 10am last Friday, when the workers discovered that contract workers recovered preferential redundancy packages. Their packages included an extra five days payout per year of service, and an EBA salary increase that would be effective a month before those given to union workers.  

“The staff employees were given their package last week and told it was a confidential agreement but of course the first thing they did was show it to the other workers,” explained Terry Breheny, who is state secretary for the Liquor Hospitality Miscellaneous Workers Union (LHMU).

“We’re not talking about a lot of money here. It was a silly move by management, they have aggravated the situation,” he added.

A picket line was also formed on Saturday morning after Arnott’s cancelled weekend overtime.

A spokeswoman from Arnott’s, which is owned by US-giant Campbell Soup Co, said that the company was disappointed, because workers had already voted in favour of accepting the redundancy package they were offered.

A statement from Arnott’s is due to be released later today.