Arnott’s biscuit makers claim they have been underpaid $1 million in overtime for weekend shifts at a Brisbane factory during a six-year period.
Arnott’s biscuit makers claim they have been underpaid $1 million in overtime for weekend shifts at a Brisbane factory during a six-year period.

Workers bite back over Arnott’s pay

BISCUIT makers at Arnott's Brisbane factory are claiming $1 million in unpaid overtime, a court has heard.

The group of 108 workers, who earn about $40,000 a year, have filed a claim in the Federal Court arguing the nation's biggest biscuit maker has underpaid them for working Sunday shifts for six years.

The claim states that the company only paid the group at the Virginia factory, in Brisbane's north, for the hours of overtime they worked on Sundays, when their workplace agreement entitled them to a minimum of four hours at double time.

The claim was filed last month, just as Arnott's and Campbell Soup Company's other international operations were put up for sale for $US3 billion ($4.2 billion).

The court claim was filed last month, just as Arnott’s was put up for sale.
The court claim was filed last month, just as Arnott’s was put up for sale.

Possible buyers reportedly include Italian chocolate maker Ferrero, private equity giant KKR and Mondelez International - owner of the Oreo, Ritz and Captains Table brands.

Arnott's is by far the market leader in biscuits, having captured 65 per cent of the Australia's biscuit market by volume.

The Brisbane factory is one of three Arnott's factories in Australia, and makes up to 100 varieties including Monte Carlo, Family Assorted, Shapes, Cruskits and Jatz.

It employs a total of 400 staff and has 10 biscuit production lines and operates 24-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week most of the year, but ramps up to 24 hours a day seven days a week in peak periods.

Arnott's began in 1865 and has become one of the largest food companies in the Asia Pacific region. Since 1997 it has been owned by US company Campbell's Soup and its three Australian factories make six billion biscuits each year for domestic and international consumption.

United Voice Queensland Union co-ordinator Damien Davie told The Sunday Mail that the underpayment was discovered by the union about five months ago when they were auditing the current enterprise agreement.

He said the union tried to get Arnott's to settle the $1 million claim for a reduced amount before going to court on March 22.

He said the union was planning to file a second claim for a further $500,000 to $700,000 in unpaid overtime this week.

The case is set for its first mention on Wednesday before Justice Darryl Rangiah. Arnott's has not filed a defence.