Thank you & Merry Christmas
By Chris Gazenbeek
2021 has not been an easy year for the bulk of our members. We’ve had to endure another year of COVID-19 and this has added enormous stress to our members’ lives. Working in retail, the DC’s and fast food is tough enough in any normal year but as we know, COVID has brought added challenges. Rude and obnoxious customers, disgusting customers spitting and coughing on members, lockdowns, incessant media reporting, case numbers, doughnut days, masks on, masks off; it never stops. Sadly, anxiety levels and depression are increasing in our communities. Psychologist and psychiatrist appointments are becoming increasingly difficult to secure and it has now been widely recognised that we will have to live with COVID in the same way we have to live with the seasonal flu.
On behalf of the Queensland community, I want to recognise our members’ incredible hard work over the past 21 months. In extremely difficult circumstances, you turned up for work and ensured we all had food on our tables. Thank you.
Since March 2020, much of the SDA’s work has revolved around issues arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic. We campaigned to keep our members in jobs, successfully lobbied the federal government to introduce Jobkeeper and then we prosecuted one of the largest and most successful Health and Safety campaigns ever undertaken by the SDA.
The SDA also supported and strongly advocated for priority vaccination for retail, warehouse and other essential workers.
We have also pressed wage claim after wage claim for our members. Our Essential Services Recognition Payments campaign was launched and within weeks, the SDA had received over 40,000 signatures of support. Costco was the first retail company to apply a recognition payment followed by a large range of other companies.
The Union has continued to roll out our No One Deserves A Serve advertising campaign and we have urged the public to respect our essential frontline workers. We deliberately ramped up our media coverage during the height of the pandemic to highlight what our members were doing in serving the community. This important campaign will be escalated over the Christmas period.
Shop Trading Hours review
The moratorium for Trading Hours comes to an end at the end of August 2022. The Queensland Government has commenced another review of Trading Hours legislation and sought commentary from interested parties. We conducted a comprehensive survey of our members, commissioned a report from the McKell Institute and sought a public poll on this issue
Because shop trading hours affects our members’ lives in so many ways, the SDA provided a submission to the parliamentary committee set up to review the legislation. In particular, we focused on the limitations of section 5 applications for significant events to be amended and allow for a more robust deliberation before such an application is granted. Furthermore, the SDA pressed for the moratorium to continue and that trading hours should not be further expanded or deregulated.
When I commenced working for the Queensland Branch of the SDA some 20 years ago, SDA members were entitled to four public holidays over the Christmas/New Year period. However, SDA members work in 7 day industries. Our members are not office-based public servants who work Monday to Friday. We noted that Queensland public holidays catered for workers who worked Monday to Friday but didn’t cater for SDA members who work across 7 days.
Because, the State Government has the power to change the public holiday legislation, we extensively lobbied the Government to provide additional public holidays and not substituted days when Christmas Day, Boxing Day and/or New Year’s Day fell on the weekend. The distinction between additional public holidays and substituted days is very important. We wanted the State Government to recognise the difference and, to their credit, the Government changed the legislation to allow for three additional public holidays.
Since 2019, SDA members have also enjoyed the benefits of Christmas Eve becoming a public holiday after 6pm and in 2017, Easter Sunday became a public holiday.
SDA members, Shop Stewards and Delegates have been totally supportive of our various public holiday campaigns and for that, I thank you.
In the 2021/2022 Christmas/ New Year period, our members will enjoy the benefits of eight public holidays and not four which was the case some 20 years ago. For most of our members, they will have the right to volunteer to work or not. If they are normally rostered to work on the public holiday, most of our members can choose not to work and still be paid their ordinary rate and thirdly, they can be paid the public holiday penalty if they work.
To me, this sounds like an excellent deal for all SDA members!
The work of the SDA never ends and we can’t achieve the outcomes we do unless we have a strong and vibrant membership. We can achieve so much if we are ‘SDA Union Strong’ in all our workplaces. SDA Shop Stewards and Delegates play a pivotal role in supporting their work colleagues every day. It is often a thankless responsibility but can be very rewarding. So, on behalf of the SDA members you represent, THANK YOU. On behalf of your SDA Organisers, THANK YOU.
Finally, on behalf of John Hogg our President, the State Council and the Officials of the Branch, I would like to wish every single member a Merry Christmas and a great New Year with your families and loved ones. Thank you for continuing to support your Union, the great SDA!
Until next time, stay safe.