Union leaders in Australia have called for fresh talks with Lactalis’ majority-owned dairy producer Parmalat, after workers were locked out of a plant in the state of Victoria in a dispute over pay and conditions.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) said 60 workers were locked out at the site in Echuca after union leaders and Parmalat managers failed to reach agreement on proposed new employment conditions which the AMWU claims would “see workers working longer hours for less pay and conditions”. 

The AMWU said in a statement: “When the workers decided to take legally-protected industrial action, the company locked them out of their workplace indefinitely and is threatening to tear up the existing enterprise agreement.”

Parmalat did not respond to requests for comment on the issue. However, the Australian Associated Press quoted a Parmalat spokesperson as saying the company was “disappointed” in the breakdown in negotiations and that the Echucha site “will remain closed until further notice”.

Parmalat’s dairy range in Australia includes products under the Pauls, Vaalia and Oak brands.

Earlier this month Lactalis, the majority owner of Parmalat, launched a voluntary tender offer to take full control of the Italian dairy business. Lactalis bought a majority stake in Parmalat in 2011.

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