Taking into consideration the scope of the VMBA Dispute and the fundamentally rancorous relations between MATFA and AMIEU, Commissioner Harrison was determined to inquire into 'all aspects of the meat industry and Federal Award Regulation', including consideration of 'rationalising the number of Federal awards in the industry' ...
Employer Disunity, Enterprise Bargaining and End of the VMBA Dispute
While the VMBA Dispute continued and the Inquiry deliberated, the Commission's October 1991 Enterprise Bargaining Principle again changed the institutional context.
His brief was to restructure the organisation to save it from the financial collapse brought on by 17 months of the VMBA Dispute.
Several other employers involved in the VMBA dispute soon joined Gilbertsons in working with the union to resolve the dispute.
Thus, when on 17 November 1991, the Commission certified the first comprehensive enterprise agreement in the Victorian meat industry, Gilbertsons and its unionised workforce were no longer parties to the VMBA. Instead they came under their new enterprise agreement that was itself based on the VMBA and a range of existing over-award agreements.
Within a matter of months, facing up to the enormous losses they had incurred during the long VMBA struggle and with no immediate sign of victory in sight, almost every other Victorian meat processor had abandoned the MATFA strategy and adopted the Gilbertsons model.
Yet, the scale of employers' losses resulting from their participation in the VMBA Dispute had been enormous.
There were a number of linked reasons for MATFA's failure in the VMBA Dispute however three clearly stand out, particularly when compared to AMH's success at Portland.
Second, whereas AMH had isolated its Portland Dispute within a small rural community and contained it to a single site, the state-wide VMBA dispute was too widespread.
They were thus many but also alone, all directly exposed to the VMBA Dispute.
If the employers' defeat in the VMBA Dispute suggested that the AMIEU--facing a life-and-death struggle--had outthought, out-manoeuvred and out-fought the employers and MATFA, the employers' strategic choices and methods for exiting and finally ending the dispute had a broader set of sources.