Woolworths/Safeway Agreement UNDER ATTACK June 2009

June 19, 2009

SDA Agreement

Woolworths currently has agreements with the SDA in each State of Australia. In Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia those agreements are “4 walls” agreements and cover everyone in the store, including the meatrooms.

AMIEU in Victoria and Tasmania

In Victorian and Tasmania the AMIEU has retained separate agreements covering meatrooms. Victorian and Tasmania have kept their own agreements because these members have been prepared to take action to retain their conditions. 

Recent Agreement

In Victoria the AMIEU negotiating committee concluded a new agreement with Woolworths/Safeway at the end of last year. It was accepted by an overwhelming vote of Safeway’s meatroom employees on 28th November 2008. It was approved by the Australian Government Workplace Authority on 15th December 2008. The increase in wages was backdated to September 2008 and finally paid in Jan/Feb 2009. The agreement has an expiry date of 26 September 2011.

Secret Negotiations with the SDA

Despite this, the Union has discovered that Woolworths are currently negotiating an Australia-wide agreement with the SDA which Woolworths intend will cover meatroom employees in Victorian and Tasmania as well as the other States.

On hearing rumours of these negotiations, AMIEU Secretary Graham Bird rang Janine Duggan, the Woolworths chief negotiator in Victoria, and asked whether they were true.  She said she knew nothing of it but would attempt to find out. She later informed Graham Bird that negotiations were taking place between the SDA and Woolworths for an Australia-wide agreement.  When asked whether it affected the Victorian meat room agreement, her reply was that no agreement had been reached, but when agreement was reached if it affected the Victorian meatrooms then Woolworths would notify the Union. 

SDA Response

The Union then approached the SDA National Secretary, Joe De Bruyn. Brian Crawford, AMIEU Federal Secretary and Queensland Branch Secretary and Graham Bird, AMIEU Victorian Branch Secretary, spoke to Joe De Bruyn. De Bruyn confirmed that the negotiations were taking place, that it was Woolworths who had requested the agreement cover meatrooms in all States, including Victoria. He also said that agreements had not been reached and that the parties were some distance apart.

Experience in Other States

Secret negotiations between the SDA and Woolworths has been the method by which the South Australian and Western Australian meatroom workers have had their conditions taken over by the SDA in recent years. The AMIEU Queensland Branch has experienced what it means to have the SDA take over your agreement.

Warnings from Queensland

Warren Earle, the AMIEU Queensland Branch organiser, has written to the Victorian Branch to warn our members of the possible consequences of an agreement being reached between the SDA and Woolworths that would take over your conditions. 

Here is an edited extract of Warren’s letter:

Dear Victorian Members,

My name is Warren Earle and I am the Queensland Branch organiser for Supermarkets and Butcher Shops in Queensland.  Laurie Burley recently contacted me with regard to the rumour that Woolworths are currently in secret negotiations to introduce a closed door deal with the SDA in relation to a new national agreement.

Anyone that works within the supermarkets would not be surprised by this, as it is common knowledge the SDA enjoy a cosy relationship with Woolworths. We Queenslanders unfortunately know this more than anyone, as the SDA now have full control over the EBA negotiations in all the supermarkets in Queensland. 

Laurie Burley and I have spoken many times in relation to the inferior conditions existing in Queensland compared to the meatrooms in Victoria. 

Here is a list of what the SDA have given away in their desire to appease the Company, and now is forever lost to Queensland retail employees:

Queensland

Saturday penalty rates - GONE
Sunday normal day. Sunday Rate 150%
Butchers Picnic - GONE
Ordinary hours of work
No penalties Mon-Fri 5am-midnight
or Sat 5am-10pm
Casual loading 20%
Adult rate at 21 years
RDOs - GONE
Probationary period Rate 95%
Less for butchers’ first 3 months
Numerous other conditions have been gradually taken away. 

Victoria

Saturday rate + 75%
Sunday voluntary. Sunday Rate 200%
Picnic Day holiday
Ordinary hours of work
Mon-Fri 5am-9pm - 50% loading after 6pm
Sat 6am-6pm - 75% loading all day
Casual loading 25%
Adult rate at 20 years
All Cabinet Attendants paid at adult rate
13 RDOs per year
Trial period at full rate


Beware of the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

I would like to warn you of the tactic that was used in Queensland.
 
You may be approached by the company and given a “carrot”. They may promise you that your conditions will be “saved” and the changes will only affect new employees.
 
They may offer you a neat pay rise to sweeten things up. They may tell you the AMIEU didn’t get this pay rise for you and that by agreeing you will enjoy the pay rise, save all of your conditions....what have YOU got to lose? 

They may then say this pay rise is backdated and you have only 2 weeks to sign to receive that backdated money, otherwise you will forfeit that little bundle of cash. 

That’s what happened in Queensland! 

12 years ago Queenslanders signed up, thinking they were on a sure thing. Today “saved” employees account for only a small proportion of employees in the workplace.  Dinosaurs we call them.  They are dying out and now the SDA have full control of the agreement.  Once you leave the company that’s it - no more “saved” entitlements.  It has created the downfall of wages and conditions in Queensland.
 
With every new EBA comes the threat the “saved” entitlements will go. Why should the checkout operators and grocery staff worry if the savings clause for the meat department is excluded?

All staff within the supermarkets will be able to vote on any new agreement, effectively voting on your wages and conditions. You will quickly find out when negotiations commence for a new EBA that you are in the minority and your voice is not heard.

If the AMIEU loses control of your EBA negotiations, it will be without doubt the beginning of the end of entitlements you now all take for granted. 

We Queenslanders know, it happened to us. In Victoria you at least have the luxury of pre-warning.”
 
Woolworths have for years attempted to have the same conditions apply throughout their store and throughout Australia.

The SDA has been a willing participant in this process.

You have been able to keep your conditions when other sections of the store were losing theirs, because you have been united and prepared to fight to keep them.

This was last demonstrated in 2002 when Woolworths attempt to lower your conditions to the SDA standard was defeated by your united action.  The last two agreements have been negotiation quickly and amicably, however it now appears that whilst the Union negotiating committee was sitting down with Woolworths and negotiating in good faith, Woolworths and the SDA were preparing a secret deal to take over Victorian Safeway meatroom conditions.
 
Members should see their Store Managers and demand to know what is going on, why negotiations are taking place about their future conditions without their knowledge.

Experience in other States has shown that where meatroom workers have not taken an active interest in their conditions, those conditions have disappeared.

Savings clauses will not save you.
Work the savings clauses protect is merely given to new workers who are not covered by it. This is the experience elsewhere.

ACT NOW TO PROTECT YOUR CONDITIONS

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of these matters, please contact your Union Organiser:

Laurie Burley  0418 103627
Bob Savine  0417 328854