The Secretary’s Report
By Chris Gazenbeek, SDA Secretary
What is the SDA?
The SDA is a registered trade union that retail, retail distribution, pharmacy and fast food workers created over 100 years ago. When you became an SDA member, you knew that ‘someone had your back’. The SDA, and in fact all Unions reflect the fact that workers are stronger when they stick together.
This fact has particularly come out throughout 2020. Because of COVID-19, Australia, and in fact the world faced the biggest crisis since World War 2 and it is far from being over.
In early 2020, the SDA was very pro-active in relation to COVID and we engaged with employers, other unions and both the state and federal governments.
JobKeeper emerged, retail and other employers supported the SDA’s 10 point safety plan and retail and retail distribution centre workers were viewed as essential workers by respective governments and the wider population.
Our hard-working members increasingly valued the SDA’s No One Deserves A Serve Campaign and I have been heartened to see so many of our members wearing the badges throughout 2020 and early 2021. I hasten to add that I know this campaign will need to continue because of the increasing nastiness of customers. (Nastiness was the most polite word I could use).
So yes, the SDA believes in the importance of giving workers a voice in their workplaces and therefore, we continue to fight hard for our members. After all, society doesn’t exist on excel spreadsheets. SDA members are not commodities but in fact are living, breathing human beings. As such, our members deserve decent and dignified lives.
Once we realised that the Fair Work Commission (FWC) decided in May 2020 to delay the annual wage increase by seven months, the SDA immediately engaged with the major employers seeking the FWC 1.75% wage increase to be back paid from 1 July 2020. We also spoke to the same employers regarding an Essential Service Payment.
These discussions with the employers yielded positive results in that the Union was able to achieve back dated wage increases from 1 July and one-off essential service payments for most of our members. Woolworths, Big W, David Jones, Just Group and other members received the 1.75% from 1 July. Many other companies passed on the pay rise before 1 February 2021 including Coles, Target and Cornetts IGA. Essential Service Payments in differing formats were also paid to our members working in Woolworths, Coles, Costco and many others.
It is noteworthy that the Union was able to increase its membership throughout 2020 by close to 10%. Non-members saw first hand the importance of SDA membership and joined up in large numbers. They saw the SDA as the only Union that fought hard for retail, fast food and retail distribution workers in a very practical way. They saw the wage increases, the additional payments, the extra benefits, the No One Deserves A Serve Campaign and the on-going support form members ranging from roster changes, OH&S, workers’ comp right through to support from SDA Shop Stewards and Delegates.
They wanted to be part of the collective, they wanted to be part of the strength, they wanted to be an SDA member.
Looking after your mental health during COVID-19
The impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, physical distancing and isolation have made many of us feel anxious, stressed and worried. In the last 12 months, SDA members have experienced lockdowns, state border closures, red zones, amber zones, orange zones, panic buying, store closures, reduced hours, redundancies, home schooling, being unable to see loved ones who live interstate, disgraceful behaviour by some customers and so much more.
Whilst the federal and state governments have invested more money into mental health issues arising from COVID, there are no actual statistics which inform us about the amount of grief, anxiety, depression and suicide-related COVID deaths which Australians have endured. Statistics regarding death, those in ICU, those using ventilators, positive COVID readings, recovery numbers, negative readings and the total number of daily tests are accessible to all of us.
Importantly, we have been told that there have been more phone calls to organisations such as Lifeline, SANE Australia and Beyond Blue but we are only guessing what the true mental health impact that COVID has had on the community.
When we talk and listen to work colleagues, family members, friends and neighbours, we can then get a true idea of how the COVID-19 virus has affected our nearest and dearest. I have spoken to friends and family in Melbourne and, as we know, they had to live through a severe lockdown and curfew. They have recently told me that they are scared of the actual virus itself but they are terrified of having lockdowns and curfews being reintroduced because of the mental stress and anguish they had to endure for over 100 days and nights.
- Helpful ideas in dealing with COVID
- Be kind to yourself and take time just for you;
- Reach out to others. Reaching out to give people support, if you are able, can assist your mental wellbeing and make a big difference to someone else’s life;
- Seek support. It’s normal to have ups and downs, and it’s important to talk about how you’re feeling with family and friends. In times like these, they are likely experiencing similar feelings. If you are feeling anxious or depressed for an extended period, see a health professional. If you want to talk to someone else but aren’t sure where to start, ring Lifeline, SANE Australia or Beyond Blue. They will be only too happy to help;
- For further assistance on COVID related matters, please ring or email the union office.
At the time of writing, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has granted provisional approval for the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine and the first front-line workers have begun to receive it. This development is good news but there is no doubt in my mind that the COVID-related stresses and anxieties will not disappear overnight.
I therefore suggest that you read the aforementioned helpful ideas and most importantly, BE KIND TO YOURSELF.