Pat, Kathleen and Dot: Loyal SDA members
By Justin Power, Assistant State Secretary
Over the last 30 years, I have had the pleasure of meeting many staunch SDA unionists both as a rank and file member and an SDA official. After leaving school, I worked for eight years at Myer and two years at DJs. Very early on, I was introduced to the SDA and joined up straight away. Looking back, both workplaces had a strong culture of camaraderie and trade unionism.
Pat Reeves, Kathleen Burgess and Dot Gorringe are three DJs employees who have been active SDA unionists for close to 150 years. Pat joined the SDA in 1958, Kathleen in 1980 and Dot some 50 years ago. Pat and Kathleen are mother and daughter and both still work at the DJs Brisbane store. Similarly, Dot has just retired from the same workplace.
Pat joined the SDA soon after she commenced work in 1958 when she started working at David Jones in the city. She left DJ’s in 1964 to have a child, Kathleen, and returned in 1968. In 1964 you were not able to work whilst pregnant; you were expected to resign. Pat worked until she was six months pregnant but had to disguise her pregnancy.
Pat has been attending our members meetings for many years and loves coming so she can be updated on current issues. Pat believes that one of the best parts of being a member of the SDA is the companionship. Pat continues to remind her co-workers of the importance of being in the union, reminding them that if it were not for the SDA you wouldn’t have the pay and conditions you have today. She tells them, “If you had to fight for your own pay rise, how do you think you would go”?
It should be no surprise to anyone that Pat believes that the biggest change she has seen over the last 50+ years in her working life is the advent of technology.
Kathleen is a shop steward at DJ’s city and is also an SDA State Councillor. She still gets non-members trying to seek advice from her so she unashamedly tells them that they have to be in the union to get help. Her son is in year 8 and both Kath and Pat hope their son/grandson will be a third generation loyal unionist.
Kathleen and Pat say it “stinks” what has happened about penalty rates and they’re “not happy at all”. Kathy believes “it is no different to Workchoices, just another way to save money”. Customers are coming in asking about the penalty rate decision and asking how it will affect them, so even the customers are concerned.
Dot Gorringe has been an SDA member for 50 years and has just recently retired. Dot started working at Woolworths Nundah, then worked at the original David Jones store in Fortitude Valley and has worked at David Jones in the city for 45 years.
When Dot joined the SDA we were 30,000 members strong; now we’re 210,000. Dot has stayed with the SDA because the union stood by her whenever she had problems at work.
She also believes that reduced penalty rates won’t lead to extra hours or more jobs; she feels “it’s just not right. If you give up weekends to work, you deserve fair compensation”.
Dot loved the people she worked with and the customers. One of Dot’s favourite customers came in and visited her store regularly with her adult disabled son. Dot fondly remembers holding the customer’s son when he was only a baby.
In retirement, Dot will be spending time on the Gold Coast with her husband of 44 years.
I know all SDA members join with me and wish Dot a happy, healthy and long retirement.
A FURTHER THOUGHT
When writing this article about these three wonderful ladies, I was reminded how diverse and interesting our membership is. We have stalwarts of the union who have been with us for their whole working life; we have some very young members who may be starting their working life in McDonald’s or Kmart and then we have loyal SDA members who work in our DCs whose job is to keep our supermarkets, discount, department and specialty stores stocked.
All have a story to tell but one thing’s for sure. They work hard, they deserve decent pay and conditions and they should not be treated as second class citizens by the Fair Work Commission and some politicians.