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Union workers strike

Employees at both Woolworths and Coles in Broken Hill have gone on strike this week, with members of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) staging a walkout as they continue to fight for a living wage and better working conditions.

Workers from Woolworths Broken Hill were the first group nationwide to go on strike, marching out on Wednesday, leading to a domino effect that will be felt across the country until after Christmas. The RAFFWU spokesperson says there’s a wide range of issues they’re fighting for.

“We’re after a living wage. I mean, a company that makes $1.5 billion profit that goes to its shareholders, but doesn’t trickle down to its workers, which are paid $25 an hour, is ridiculous,” the spokesperson said.

“We want a safer workplace. Retail is one of the most dangerous places to work for assault at the moment and we want more protections from that. Secure jobs and secure hours – the contracts that are given out quite often are not satisfactory to maintain a living life. Paid leave and all the rest of it, all basic rights that any worker should have, we believe we need stronger action on.”

Woolworths’ response to the strike action happening in Broken Hill has been to bring in workers from capital cities such as Adelaide and Sydney as cover. A move that’s being noticed by customers in town.

“Unfortunately, we’ve taken this action at Christmas and we found out that Woolworths have shipped in about 20 workers from away, from different cities at great expense. Putting them up from Tuesday until Sunday to undermine our fight,” the spokesperson said.

“I’ve spoken to many people outside of the union and outside of Woolworths, just general people, and when I tell them that Woolworths have flown and driven people in from away, they are very disappointed and upset about that. Some have said they would never shop at Woolworths again and if that happens, well, so be it.

“We’re not about damaging the company [or] damaging the customers. We’re about getting the rights and the fair pay [and] the living wage that we deserve. We’re only asking for what we believe we deserve. And [for] them to really fight back like that shows how seriously they’re taking this. In my opinion, it shows that they will go to any lengths to stop us.”

The spokesperson assured us that those who are striking don’t do so with an intent to interrupt customer’s shopping experiences, however striking during the busiest time of the year when shoppers will begin purchasing food and drink ahead of the festive season is the best time to go on strike, according to the spokesperson.

“It’s not about disruption. It’s about people seeing that we are strong in our fight to have these issues resolved,” they said.

“We’re not about disrupting people or making life hard for the customers – quite often we put customers before ourselves. But, if you’re going to make a statement, you make the statement at the right time, which is this time, which is the busiest time of the year. Anyone that’s disrupted, we’re not happy about.”

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