By Chris Gazenbeek SDA State Secretary
In the last two editions of the SDA News, I have spoken about the Woolworths restructure which most members know about. Very simply, Woolworths decided to restructure its business without initially appropriately consulting its employees or the SDA. The decision was taken at the highest echelons of the company but its impact has been felt across its entire supermarket network.
There is no doubt in my mind that if Woolworths was not a unionised company, the impacts would have been far more devastating for the Woolworths workforce. Many more members would have lost their full-time employment and became part-time employees. Secondly, the payments paid to redundant workers would have been considerably less.
I repeat that the SDA did not and never have endorsed the company’s restructure. In fact, there is clear evidence that morale has hit an all time low and it will take many years before the wounds heal. The SDA’s assistance has gone some way to improving morale.
I would like to share two stories fro members who we’ve been able to help. They are SDA members who put up their hands, contacted the SDA and asked for assistance. Their names have been changed to protect their identity. Both members wanted to share their stories in the hope that when other members encounter a problem in their workplace, that they come forward and seek assistance from the union.
CASE STUDY A
Member A was initially gobsmacked when the company made its initial announcement. He went through a rollercoaster of emotions. In his own words, “it has affected everyone in my store, my family, friends and customers. I felt gutted. It’s not nice knowing that your life is in other people’s hands.
Thank God for the SDA. I initially spoke to Diane in the union office and then spoke to my Organiser. Both were wonderful. They felt my pain. We were so pleased the SDA took the company to the Fair Work Commission”.
Member A was unsuccessful in Round 1. The SDA took the matter through the grievance procedure whilst the member simultaneously applied in Round 2. He was successful this time and kept his pay.
Member A’s final words on the matter: “It’s been a hard couple of months but now I have a smile on my face. Thank you SDA”.
CASE STUDY B
Member B has been working for Woolworths for five years and was the 2IC in her department. Because of the restructure process, Member B had to reapply for her role. She has a learning difficulty which she has managed well in her working life. The interview process presented new challenges for Member B but it was very important that our member secured a full-time job within the company.
Our member requested the attendance of her Organiser at a meeting with the store management and subsequent discussions occurred with the company’s Field Officer. The Organiser then had a further discussion with the Group Manager. By this time, the member requested that she wanted a transfer to another store, that this store had to have positive leadership and importantly, she wanted a full-time job. The Group Manager deliberated on the matter for 24 hours and then relayed the good news to the Organiser.
It’s fair to say that our member and her family are very happy with the outcome. Once again our member has a purpose in her life and a reason to get out of bed each morning.
The SDA Queensland Branch has represented over 100 members with their individual cases after roadblocks were reached at store level. At the point of writing, most cases have been settled. Transitional and redundancy payments were expected to be paid in early October and if any members need to query those payments, please contact the union office at your convenience.
I am very thankful to our Shop Stewards and Officials who have provided strong and swift support to our affected members.