Coles Supermarkets March 2008

March 2008



The Coles and AMIEU Agreement runs out late august 2008.  Coles will be seeking what they always seek which is to reduce their operating costs by lessening their employees’ wages and conditions. Entitlements such as paid rostered days off and penalty rates will be targeted.
We will be fighting on two fronts.  One will be against Coles the employer, a very visible opponent, and a second opponent which is the SDA. Those people presently employed by Coles would have noticed the literature in the lunch room in relation to their latest EBA.

You may also have noticed that it covers trades people and meat wrappers in the state of Queensland, which is so far the only State where the SDA have succeeded in knocking off the AMIEU. 


In Western Australia a couple of years ago the meat room employees at Woolworths lost their coverage to the SDA.  During the life of an AMIEU agreement, vacancies occurring in the meat department were offered to SDA members on the grocery floor.  New employees were covertly discouraged from membership in the AMIEU. This resulted in a situation where about one third of the meat room workers were members of the AMIEU, one third were in the SDA and one third were not in any Union.
The Company then refused to deal with the AMIEU because of its reluctance to give up the meat room conditions.  An agreement was reached between Woolworths and the SDA and put to a vote of the entire workforce, not just those employed in the meat room.  The employees outside the meat room had long ago lost their conditions so that the superior conditions in the meat room meant nothing to them.  A united meat room vote is still outnumbered by the vote in the rest of the store.

Those employed in meat rooms in Victoria need to understand what has happened elsewhere and be pro-active as meat workers so that the same thing does not happen here. 
The first targets of the Company will be your span of hours, with the penalties that apply on weekends and night, more casualisation, the ability to replace packers with juniors during school holidays, and the introduction of junior rates of pay for cabinet attendants.

This is not something unfamiliar to you. All you have to do is look out into the store and see what conditions apply there. 
Workers in the meat department who are not members of the AMIEU are in fact undermining your conditions by altering the membership percentages.  Those non-members who take the benefits won by those members who came before them will cause the loss of all conditions that we take for granted.

The Company is my friend. It will look after me.What conditions or pay increases have the Company ever initiated?  NONEHow many proposals for improvements in employee conditions  has the Company fought against in the past?  ALL.

  1. If  I don’t like what they do to me I will leave.
  2. They have done it to the rest of the staff in the store and in every other State. There will still be weak people doing the job for lesser conditions.
  3. I want to advance in the Company
  4. Will you do whatever you are told by those in authority? Watch out for superiors willing to exploit compliant staff.
  5. I am going to retire soon. 
  6. You got the best of the meat agreements - stuff the rest. What about those who come after you, the next generation, your own children?  Don’t they deserve decent pay and conditions?
  7. I have a conscientious objection to being in the Union.

The Union is you and your work mates.  Do you object to joining them in a fight to preserve your entitlements?
Decent pay and conditions are your right, not a privilege. Those people who choose not to be a part of our collective in the meat department are actively supporting the Company and the SDA in their efforts to undermine conditions which will affect their workmates’ quality of life, and ability to support their families.

Meat room workers do not want to become part of the general body of the store where they can be shifted from the meat room to any part of the store at the whim of the Manager and  where the SDA span of hours can be forced upon them.

All members of previous committees negotiating the Coles agreement have emphasized that they are meat workers.  They are proud to be meat workers, proud of the fact that they are highly skilled workers, qualified in packing, wrapping and cutting up products, and believe they are entitled to proper conditions.  We must prepare over the next few months so that we do not give up what we have won. 

Negotiations are scheduled to commence in June 2008.  The Union will follow its normal course and form a negotiating committee comprising Union Officials and a representative group of  Coles members.

In the Coles situation there are particular concerns in relation to the retail ready departments.  A large percentage of the staff from these departments are ex-grocery workers who thought they were in heaven when they came across to the meat departments because of the conditions we had maintained.  This group of workers had never fought for any wages or conditions (I suppose they were never given the chance).  They need to have an attitude of not “it was good whilst we had it” but to develop an attitude that the current conditions are actually fair and reasonable and to attempt to remove them would be grossly unfair.

It is well known that the Coles group have over the last number of years made some disastrous decisions which has placed the company into a rebuilding phase.  The people on the shop floor were well aware the direction the company was going in was totally stupid, but the “yes men” at the top did not have the guts to do anything.  They were too busy lining their own pockets in the short term at the expense of a once great company.

Now that Westfarmers have taken control of Coles, their strong management team, both local and overseas, are certain to undo the mistakes of the previous administration.
Any members interested in being on the Coles negotiating committee should notify their Organiser Laurie Burley (0418 103627) or Bob Savine (0417 328854) or the Union Office.