Massive multinational fashion retailer H&M has been welcomed to Australia in style by the SDA, who are doing their best to make the $21-billion company feel right at home by throwing workers wages and conditions into the bin.
H&M are used to operating in this manner, working for many years to drive their costs down and profits up by moving manufacturing to countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia. In 2013 H&M presided over one of the worst industrial disasters in Bangladeshi history when the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people — and three years on, the company are yet to make good on any of their promises to improve safety and conditions for their huge underpaid workforce.
This track record of unethical behaviour isn’t a problem for the SDA, who moved quickly to strike a pre-emptive ‘greenfields’ agreement with H&M that — much like their shoddy deals with Coles, Woolworths, McDonalds and other huge corporations — would see workers pay and conditions slashed to less than the award rate.
Fair Work Commission Deputy President Geoff Bull blasted H&M and the SDA this week for dragging their feet on providing evidence that their proposed agreement passes the Better Off Overall (BOOT) Test, revealing that major components such as paid compassionate leave and paid parental leave were still mysteriously missing.
The process of trying to figure out just how bad a deal the SDA were willing to accept has been taking so long that the Commission is now preparing to rule on the agreement as it stands, which would be terrible news for both H&M and the SDA as it would fail the BOOT test and H&M workers would end up getting paid more.
A History of Dodgy Deals
This wouldn’t be the first time an SDA negotiated agreement has failed the BOOT test recently. At the end of March the Fair Work Commission tore up the Coles/SDA deal after it was proven conclusively that it resulted in workers being substantially worse off — something that the SDA was forced to admit under cross-examination that it had known was possible all along, but had deliberately avoided explaining to its workforce.
Coles meat workers are now returned to their original AMIEU meat agreements, which thanks to strong representation and union officials who are actually willing to fight for their members, are some of the best in the industry.
We call on the Fair Work Commission to scrap any H&M/SDA deal before it starts, and hope that the SDA will soon wake up and see what their members are demanding of them — strong representation and a refusal to bow to corporate interests, rather than taking their members money and pouring it into anti-marriage-equality campaigns.