Enjoy your well-deserved retirement Cheryl

October 22, 2020 News

By Chris Gazenbeek, SDA Secretary

I recently had the good fortune to catch up with Cheryl Lowe who has recently retired from Woolworths Harbourtown on the Gold Coast. Cheryl originally worked for Franklins in the Health and Beauty section and worked for Woolies since they acquired several Franklins’ stores nearly 20 years ago.

Cheryl recently sent the union office an email stating that she had retired after 37 years of SDA membership. She also thanked the SDA for all the support she had received in that time.
Because very few SDA members complete over 35 years of SDA membership, I wanted to personally thank Cheryl for her loyalty and support.

During lunch, we took a trip down memory lane and discussed the continuing evolution of supermarket retailing. Cheryl shared her memories of individually price marking every item in the Health and Beauty section, the fact that checkout operators had to memorise the weekly specials and also the weekly ritual of lining up at the cash office every week to receive her pay packet. In those days, retail workers were paid in cash!

When Cheryl commenced her retail career in 1983, there was no Sunday trading and no late night Thursday trading on the Gold Coast. Members had the opportunity to spend quality time with their families at night and on weekends which was a good thing. Today, supermarkets seem to be open all the time and unfortunately, the supermarket retailers want to be able to trade longer and longer. The longer trading hours have been accompanied by penalty rate cuts and Cheryl believes this is totally unfair. In Cheryl’s words, “If you are prepared to give your weekend up to work, why shouldn’t you receive penalty rates? People rely on them and they deserve them for missing out on time with their family”.

Cheryl is lucky enough to have never experienced bad customer violence or abuse but has witnessed checkout operators copping it regularly. “You see more abuse these days, especially around Christmas. People just aren’t happy; they’re always in a rush and you just don’t get that festive feeling anymore”.

The SDA has always been on hand to help Cheryl. She recalls one time fairly early in her career when the SDA Organiser of the time helped her receive her long service leave. This required a great deal of time as there was no electronic records. Since then, Cheryl always knew that that the SDA would look after her.

During Covid-19, Cheryl has been glad that she was working for Woolworths in Queensland and not Victoria. She was really happy with the safety measures that Woolworths put in place during the pandemic and the information and assistance the SDA provided. Cheryl commented further that all Woolies workers had worked extremely hard during Covid and are continuing to do so. “It is simply not fair that the Fair Work Commission delayed our 1.75% annual pay rise until February 2021 when we worked really hard and put ourselves at risk. Supermarket workers should have received a wage rise. Some decision makers are on big dollars and they just don’t realise how hard people are working to make ends meet. Of course, Woolworths would have already budgeted for the pay increase and they should just pay it”!

As we finished our lunch, Cheryl told me that she is looking forward to painting her house, buying a bicycle to go for rides and spending more time with her husband, three children and four grandchildren.

Somehow, I get the feeling that Cheryl is going to enjoy her well-deserved retirement!

P.S. Since I met with Cheryl, Woolworths and Coles Supermarkets have decided to pay the 1.75% wage increase to all their employees across their retail operations. I know that Cheryl would welcome this decision.