Woolworths/Safeway February 2012

New Organisers Appointed

Following the recent retirement of Laurie Burley and Collin Ross, the AMIEU has appointed two new Retail Organisers, Sean Reilly and Michael Newman, to look after members in Woolworths/Safeway stores in Victoria.

Sean Reilly          Michael Newman

Woolworths National Agreement Negotiations

Negotiations are continuing for a new agreement to replace the current agreement that expires on the 30th June 2012. The AMIEU has sent representatives from all State branches to these negotiations in Sydney.

There have been many questions from members why the Woolworths National Agreement exists and why it now covers Victorian meat rooms.   
Part of the reason is that the Federal Government’s Fair Work Legislation is very restrictive in some regards and can even seem biased towards the employer.  It allows companies the right to pursue a “4 walls” agreement to cover all aspects of their business.  Agreements can relate to individual States or operate nationally. In supermarkets it covers all departments.

The company contends that it requires a uniform agreement to be able to provide flexibility and simplicity to its workplace, to be able to move staff around to fill vacancies in all departments without too much confusion over pay rates and penalties, and flexibility between different agreements that would otherwise have existed within stores.

Lesson from the West

In Western Australia a couple of years ago the meat room employees at Woolworths lost their AMIEU agreement coverage to the SDA.

During the life of the AMIEU agreement, vacancies occurring in the meat department were offered to SDA members on the grocery floor and new employees were discouraged from taking up 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 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 greatly outnumbered by the vote in the whole of the store.

Non Members Undermine Conditions

Workers in the meat room who are not members of the AMIEU are in fact undermining your conditions by altering membership percentages. 

Non-Union members take for granted all the benefits that they work under;  benefits which were won by our members who had to fight long and hard for them.  We need to stay strong and bolster membership in order to secure a majority vote in these agreements. When new workers start in the meat room they should be encouraged to become members of the Meat Workers Union so that we can continue to try and protect conditions and restore those that have already been taken away.

We must stay united and determined not to pass on to the next generation inferior pay and conditions to those we enjoyed. Experience in other States has shown that where meat room workers have not taken an active interest in their conditions, those conditions have disappeared. Savings clauses will not save you.  The work savings clauses protect is merely given to new workers who are not covered by it. This is the experience elsewhere.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of these matters, please call your AMIEU organiser:

Michael Newman-0418 103 627-Western Victoria
Sean Reilly -0417 328 854-Eastern Victoria