Thanks to the tireless efforts of the AMIEU, the dodgy deal cooked up between the corporate-loving SDA union and Coles was officially killed off on May 31 2016. This deal would have seen Coles meat workers ripped off by up to $15,000 a year, after the SDA stepped into AMIEU territory and agreed to help Coles out by slashing penalty rates and conditions.
Alongside young Coles employee Duncan Hart, the AMIEU successfully convinced the Fair Work Commission to deliver a Full Bench verdict that showed clearly how Coles workers would be worse off under the new agreement. Coles refused to renegotiate the arrangement and as a result it was thrown out — a massive win for workers.
Tens of thousands of young Coles employees, predominantly those who work the high penalty-rate shifts that nobody else wants such as nights and weekends, will now be awarded the large amounts in back pay that they would have earned in the first place if Coles and the SDA hadn’t worked together to take them away.
This victory is an unequivocal vindication of the power of union workers who are committed to standing up and fighting for what is right. This was a hard battle that took many years to achieve, but thanks to the efforts of the AMIEU this dangerous assault on meat workers — and all retail workers — has now been pushed back.
We applaud Duncan Hart for taking a stand against this underhanded strategy (against his own union!) and we’re extremely proud to have helped him deal the killing blow.
The SDA has similar cosy deals in place at McDonalds and Woolworths, both of which are using the same strategy of tricking workers by slightly raising their base rate but slashing their penalty rates.
All employers should now be taking note of the decision by the Fair Work Commission, which sets a precedent for anybody attempting the same dirty and underhanded tactic — a tactic which FairFax media estimates saves McDonalds $50 million each year in wages.
In a notice to their members outlining the decision, the SDA condemned Coles for their unwillingness to improve the current deal while still refusing to acknowledge just how bad their deal was in the first place. All the SDA was willing to admit was that “some workers” who work penalty-rate-heavy shifts “could” be disadvantaged — a far cry from the findings of the Fair Work Commission, who used the SDA’s own calculations to show that workers were going to lose thousands.
Documents seen by the AMIEU show that Coles is now preparing to go through their national roster of meat workers and calculate how much is owed – a total about-face from the company which was previously insisting that “no employee was worse off” under its agreement with the SDA.