Workers at Woolworths in Broken Hill have upheld the town’s longstanding tradition of leading in industrial action, marking their place in history as the first Woolworths employees to strike. This comes ahead of a national strike scheduled for this Saturday that will involve both Woolworths and Coles workers.
Josh Cullinan, Secretary of the Retail and Fast-Food Workers Union (RAFFWU), told the Barrier Truth, “This is historic. Supermarket workers standing up proudly be the very first Woolworths workers to take strike action.”
Mr Cullinan highlighted the workers’ demand for better wages, describing the current pay as “poverty wages”, and called for safer working conditions.
“These supermarket workers are paid bare minimum wages, poverty wages in workplaces that aren’t safe, with no structure or system to deal with crimes that occur in these workplaces. And on top of that their jobs aren’t secure either.”
“They’re on $25 per hour and even less at the moment and we’re hopeful that this strike action will drive some change. We know we’re not going to get the world, but we need to be moving towards a living wage of $29 an hour.”
Besides the national strike action on Saturday, where Coles and Woolworths workers will join forces, Mr Cullinan noted there will be additional industrial action on Tuesday night from 9pm to 11pm for night workers who wish to participate. He also appealed to the community to back the workers in their pursuit of safer working conditions and a liveable wage.
“The whole community can support what we are doing by heading to our website and donating to our strike fund for those that can afford to. Not only that, but they can send emails to the CEOs of Coles and Woolies, and we encourage the community to come out and support workers as well.”
When reached for a response on the industrial action, a Woolworths spokesperson stated, “We have been in regular contact with RAFFWU bargaining representatives and an initial bargaining meeting has already occurred. We have a long history of bargaining in good faith with our team and will continue to do so.
“However, we acknowledge and respect the right of team members to take protected industrial action. Only individuals who have appointed RAFFWU as their bargaining representative are able to participate in the proposed industrial action. As a result, we would not expect customers or our stores to be materially impacted. Customers will still be able to shop in our stores.
“RAFFWU is a bargaining representative for around 300 team members out of the more than 132,000 team members who are covered by the Supermarkets EA.
“In July we passed on a 5.75% wage increase to team members in scope for this new Agreement.”
Coles were also contacted for comment. A spokesperson for Coles said, ““We don’t expect any disruption to our customers or store operations due to the industrial action.
“We remain committed to negotiating a fair and balanced agreement for all. Coles continues to provide above-award conditions under our current enterprise agreement and passed on the Fair Work Commission’s 5.75% annual wage increase to our supermarket team members in July 2023.”
The national strike is set for Saturday, with workers from both Coles and Woolworths assembling outside the stores from 10am.