From the Desk of the Secretary October 2021

September 22, 2021 News

SDA members are essential workers. No ifs, no buts, SDA members are essential workers. For over 18 months, our members have been at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have formed a critical part of Australia’s response to the pandemic and as such, they should have access to the vaccine as early as appropriately possible. Of course, the SDA acknowledges that our members are not part of, for example, the medical profession, but importantly, our members are helping keep the nation fed. Quite simply, we are the cog which keeps Australia’s food chain alive. Without SDA members working in our supermarkets and distribution centres, our food chain would come to a screeching halt.

After significant talks between the SDA and the State Government, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk recently announced the distibution centre workers would now receive priority vaccine 1b status to help protect our essential food supply chain. Vaccine hubs have also been setup at key DC’s, such as Woolworths BRDC and Coles DC’s, to ensure the vaccine is accessible and easy to receive.
We continue to engage the State Goverment about priority vaccinations for essential supermarket workers.

It is worth noting that the major retailers are on board with this issue and it is important to recognise that companies such as Woolworths Ltd, Bunnings, Kmart, Target, Officeworks and ALDI are providing paid vaccination leave to our members. We are also continuing to have paid vaccination leave discussions with many other retailers including Coles and other independent supermarkets. Our members in those companies will be notified as soon as those discussions have had a positive outcome.

Fair Work Commission’s Annual Wage Review 2.5% decision

It is disappointing that the Fair Work Commission didn’t view retail workers in the same light as the Prime Minister and respective State Governments in its Annual Wage Review. Retail workers are essential workers and should have received the 2.5% from 1 July, 2021 and not 1 September, 2021.

The Commission unfairly decided to delay the wage increase and this decision is totally unacceptable. As a result, we pushed every major employer to pay the increase and to their credit, many employers have acknowledged that their employees have worked extremely hard during the pandemic and have decided to pay the 2.5% from 1 July.

In early 2022, we will be mounting a vigorous campaign to ensure that our retail members receive justice in the Commission’s Annual Wage Review. I very much look forward to the Fair Work Commission rewarding our members by paying the wage increase from 1 July, 2022 and not a day later!

Woolworths and Big W DC Enterprise Agreements

The Woolworths BRDC and Big W DC Enterprise Agreements have been supported by the majority of employees at both sites and approved by the Fair Work Commission. As in all Enterprise Bargaining negotiations, we do not achieve everything we wanted but when one objectively looks at the detail of those negotiations, many gains were made. Solid wage increases, improved redundancy provisions and improvements for casual workers are just three of the gains which were achieved in both agreements.

Once again, these gains would not have been achieved without the on-going support of our membership and the hard work of our Delegates – thank you.

Fast Food and ‘sit-OFFs’

Recently, our Information and Industrial Officers have been fielding enquiries regarding fast food outlets getting their casual workers to not commence work but ‘sit off’ until they are needed to start work. This is not a new phenomenon as rogue employers have been trying to do this for a very long time.

The SDA’s position is as follows:

  • Scenario 1: If a casual employee has been rostered for a shift and fronts up to the workplace, then they should be paid from the time their roster was to commence despite having to ‘sit-off’ or not.
  • Scenario 2: Alternatively, if the casual is given appropriate warning that their shift has changed before commencing their usual journey to work, then this employer action is acceptable.
    Members are advised to ring or email the union office if their workplace is adopting Scenario 1 as opposed to Scenario 2. It is only when the Union is notified of such incidents, that this practice can be immediately stopped.

Coles Meat

We have recently been advised by Coles senior management that they have decided to close meat rooms in some supermarkets and replace them with a ready meat offer. The SDA disagrees with the company’s position and had urged them to reconsider. However, following consultation, Coles has decided to proceed with the new Meat Department model.

Retailers are always looking for a point of difference from their competitors, and now their meat offering will be no different than ALDI’s. For decades, Coles has provided a longstanding service to the community with its meat rooms. The training, skills and knowledge of our members in the meat rooms are second to none and will now be lost forever now Coles has gone down this path.
Over the years, I have observed many instances where one team of management decides on a course of action and some years later, a new management team reverses that decision. The difference with this proposed change is that qualified tradesmen and women do not grow on trees.

The new model commences in store on 11 October 2021 and all affected staff have been offered a choice of redeployment or redundancy. The SDA will continue to communicate with affected members.

Some good news

Over the last 12 months, the SDA has recovered over 8 million dollars across Australia which has been paid directly into our members’ bank accounts. These amounts include wage underpayments, recovery of entitlements, redundancy payments and WorkCover claims.

Members did not to have pay one cent of their own money to recover these payments. All costs were borne by the Union.

Yes, it does pay to be a member of the SDA!