Things are heating up at the Streets Minto production facility, and that's the last thing you need when making ice-cream.
After being purchased from the original owning and founding family by international giant Unilever, the iconic Australian brand has hit the headlines multiple times. Disagreements between the existing workforce and new management are making production unsteady, and the latest news about working conditions and pay cuts are unlikely to improve things.
Streets is now intending to install 90 surveillance cameras across its Sydney manufacturing plant in order to "monitor employee performance", provoking angry workers to state that “this is how an ice cream factory would operate if it was run by North Korea”.
This comes hot on the heels of comments from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union threatening a boycot campaign in response to looming pay cuts which could cost workers up to 46% of their wages.
“I’ve been to mass meetings, talking to workers on site — some of them very loyal employees — and they cannot believe Unilever is doing this to them after 20 years of working for the company,” said Steve Murphy, the AMWU New South Wales secretary.
“One worker said they worry about how they will continue to support their autistic child with the same level of care and therapy. Another said they will probably lose their family if the [pay cut] goes ahead.”
Workers are unable to voice concerns through social media, with the company's policy saying that negative comments and 'negative emojis' must not be used against the Streets corporation by any of its employees on social media.
Documents (obtained by The Australian) reveal that the newly installed cameras will be used for “workplace surveillance”, including “to monitor work activity to improve productivity” and “to monitor the adherence to time and attendance rules”.
Other stated objectives for the cameras include crime detection and reduction, but union officials and employees are concerned that the surveilance will be focused on efficiency.
“It just seems as if they’re trying to catch people out for minor infringements and furthering this culture of bullying that appears to be going on when you threaten workers about speaking out on social media," said Murphy.
“We could have worked through a policy in terms of CCTV for food safety and security. That’s sensible stuff. I am not sure how we respond to this stuff, which is just a little bit crazy."
The union is preparing for a campaign calling consumers to boycott well-known Streets brands, including Magnum and Golden Gaytime.