Know your rights!
By Justin Power, SDA Assistant Secretary
Most SDA members will need to be employed in the paid workforce somewhere between 35 and 55 years over their working lives. In that time, members will work in a variety of jobs for a mixture of companies and of course, they will work for all sorts of managers ranging from the totally incompetent to management who actually care about their staff.
Given the length of time we all have to work, it is fair to say that most of us will experience a range of issues and/or problems. These could range from rostering issues, bullying, underpayment of wages and quite possibly, a workers’ compensation problem.
Case study #1
Julie commenced work for a large retail company as a 17 year old employee. Her part-time wage gave her the financial independence to pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. During her second year of study, her single mother experienced ill-health and Julie had to increase her hours and work two jobs to pay the household bills.
Julie ‘grew up’ overnight as she had to also care for the financial and emotional well-being of her mum, younger brother and sister. Unfortunately, she had to withdraw from her course.
Fast forward five years. Julie’s mum was still unwell and her brother and sister were in their final years of high school. Julie was a wonderful role model for her siblings.
Julie learned from a friend of a friend that she was entitled to the first aid allowance which hadn’t been paid to her in the three years since she was asked by management to perform the role. She asked her SDA Shop Steward who confirmed that Julie was owed over $1,800.
For the first time in her working life, Julie had to make a decision as to whether she should pursue her entitlement or not. She had an excellent working relationship with her department manager and didn’t want to jeopardise their friendship but on the other hand, she was annoyed that the company had underpaid her.
Julie decided to pursue the matter because she wanted what was legally hers and felt that if her department manager became upset, then it was just bad luck. Also, she wanted to continue to be a good role model for her brother and sister.
Initially, the store manager refused to backpay Julie but once her SDA Organiser became involved, the matter was resolved satisfactorily in Julie’s favour. With the money, Julie was able to pay the $760 car registration bill and will have a few extras at Christmas time.
Julie was thrilled with the outcome and is so glad she has maintained her SDA membership. Her SDA Shop Steward was able to provide her with the correct information and her SDA Organiser was able to professionally resolve the matter with Head Office once her store manager refused to pay her backpay.
P.S Julie hopes to continue with her studies once her brother and sister leave school.
Good luck Julie!
Case study #2
Peter had been an SDA member for 18 months and decided to resign from the union on his 19th birthday. Within 12 months, he had an accident at work and emailed the union office as he needed some help. Part of his email read: I was a member of the union but decided to quit. I now regret that decision every day! Anyhow I had a work accident and after six months and lots of xrays and tests it was determined that the injury had exacerbated a pre-existing condition and my file was closed. I then had my duties withdrawn pending a further medical evaluation. I guess my question is why won’t they terminate me given the fact I can’t do suitable duties and I am getting no hours? Why are they so adamant I resign instead? I guess alarm bells started ringing as I feel there must be another agenda as to why they won’t terminate me.
Are you able to help me?
An edited version of our response to Peter read: Peter, I am sure you will understand that we are unable to assist you with this matter as your membership was terminated (at your request) prior to the date of injury.
Should you wish to reconsider your SDA membership, call our office but unfortunately we can only assist you with matters that arise from the date of joining.
Comparing Julie and Peter
Both Julie and Peter had been in the workforce for a relatively short period of time. Both encountered a problem. Julie decided to retain her membership and both her SDA Shop Steward and Organiser were able to help her secure her legal entitlement.
On the other hand, Peter resigned from the union yet turned to the union when he needed help. Peter decided to go alone and learned very quickly that things can go ‘pear-shaped’.
Peter quickly realised that the whole workers’ compensation area is a legal minefield and he was out of his depth.
Peter is now looking for another job and has decided to re-join the SDA when he commences a new job in the retail industry.
Yes, it does pay to be a member of the SDA!