From the Secretary’s Desk June 2021
By Chris Gazenbeek, SDA Secretary
National Wage increase
Last week, the Fair Work Commission handed down a 2.5% increase to the minimum wage and awards as part of its Annual Wage Review.
Unfortunately, the Commission has again unfairly decided to delay the wage increase for retail workers until 1 September this year.
This is unacceptable and the SDA will be pushing for every major employer to pay this increase from 1 July. Woolworths Supermarkets and Big W have already agreed to apply the increase from 1 July.
Members affected by the Fast Food Industry Award, Pharmacy Award and Storage Services Award will receive this pay increase on 1 July.
SDA members have campaigned and won this wage increase, despite business lobby groups calling for a wage freeze.
SDA members should be proud of campaigning and winning a pay rise – thank you for your support.
But our work continues, we need to ensure that employers pass on this wage increase to their workers on 1 July, and negotiate new Agreements to lock in future wage increases.
The SDA will continue to keep you up to date about this decision and how it impacts you.
The SDA has always taken a holistic approach to unionism. We have never just looked at just the wages and working conditions which our members enjoy today. Importantly, we also look after our members in their retirement.
In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, the leaders of the SDA decided that they wanted SDA members to retire with enough money so that they could meet their financial commitments and have some left over to enjoy their lives. The reality of those times was that superannuation was the preserve of management and very few workers had some form of super. This old thinking is best illustrated by a Victorian based retailer named Venture who was happy to provide superannuation for their male store managers and no other employee!
In the 1980s, the SDA was the pivotal union in the private sector. We argued with employers, industrial tribunals and governments that workers should have dignity in retirement and that employers should fund an Occupational Superannuation Scheme for all their employees and not just management.
The SDA successfully argued the merits of our case in the Industrial Commission of the time and in the 1980’s, SDA members won the right to universal occupational superannuation. The amount awarded was 3%.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the union movement argued that occupational superannuation was so important that there should be a national strategy on super. The thinking of the time was that workers needed more savings than just the aged pension. Unions, business groups and governments were involved in those discussions and ultimately common sense prevailed. The union movement argued that super was so important that it should be taken out of the hands of industrial tribunals and should become the domain of the federal government. The SDA was delighted when the Superannuation Guarantee Levy of 3% was enshrined in federal legislation in 1992.
Since 1992, the union movement has successfully argued that 3% was a ‘drop in the ocean’ and if we, as a nation, were fair dinkum about the need for workers to retire with dignity, then that amount had to substantially increase. Over time, the union movement has successfully pressured governments and the current 9.5% amount will increase to 10% as of 1 July, 2021.
Of course, this amount needs to increase further and the SDA and other unions will continue to push governments of all persuasions. After all, if it is good enough for politicians to receive 15.4% super, it is good enough for SDA members! We are also realistic enough to know that the SDA will have to continue to fight employers and governments to reach the 15.4% threshold but the battle is worth winning.
Federal budget and super
When occupational superannuation was first introduced, workers had to earn at least $450 per calendar month to qualify for the employer funded 3%. At that time, it was acknowledged that it was expensive for employers to write a cheque for the small amounts of super and processing the payments would leave members with no money. That world no longer exists.
The SDA campaigned long and hard on this issue and we welcomed the federal government’s announcement in the federal budget that the $450 threshold will disappear as of 1 July, 2022. This is a great win for our members!
Our next aim is get the government to extend superannuation to their paid parental leave scheme and to remove the 30 hour per week impediment for employees under the age of 18 receiving Superannuation. Stay tuned!
The most important thing about the future is to remember the lessons of history. There is no doubt that there is a direct linkage between union membership and improved wages and benefits. As the SDA has increased its size, we have increased our bargaining power with employers.
I can provide four concrete examples where we have directly engaged with employers in the last 12 months and as a result, our members have directly benefitted. The four examples are essential service payments, backdated 1.75% wage increases, Anzac Day payments and up to three hour paid COVID-19 vaccination payments.
Our collective task for the future is to increase our membership thus increasing our bargaining power; this can only result in increased wages and benefits for all SDA members.
I encourage all members to take five minutes and ask one non-member in your workplace to ‘do their bit’ and join the union which delivers real benefits to retail, retail distribution and fast food employees. Ask them to join the SDA today.