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Will Supermarket Workers Share Record Profits?

Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Will Supermarket Workers Share Record Profits?

Two days of negotiations begin as Woolworths announces record profits

Woolworths will confirm over the next two days of negotiations with the National Distribution Union whether yesterday’s “promise of more to come” included its New Zealand supermarket workers.

Woolworths Ltd, Australia’s retail giant and owner of Woolworths, Countdown and Foodtown in New Zealand said that “the best is yet to come” after the company’s annual sales increased by one-fifth to A$37.6 billion, bolstered by last years acquisition of Progressive NZ.

The National Distribution Union’s campaign is seeking above-inflation pay rises, an end to youth rates, a collective bargaining allowance for union members and ongoing recognition of an extra week’s leave after 6 years service in wage negotiations with the company.

The company said June quarter sales in its New Zealand supermarkets were up 4% on the same quarter last year with an increase in market share.

“These sales increases signal bumper profits and supermarket workers will be after a fair share of those,” said NDU National Secretary, Laila Harre.

“While the company is doing very nicely, supermarket workers in the campaign were not so lucky and would be hit hard by Monday’s announced 4% inflation,” she said.

Laila Harre says that despite adult members at Progressive earning almost $1.50 an hour more than non-union supermarkets, rates remain significantly below 1980’s wages and youth rates remain.

Ms Harre said that New Zealander’s spent $10 billion dollars in supermarkets last year ($1 in every $10 dollars) which gave supermarkets enormous economic power and made it a bigger industry than public health.

Negotiations with Progressive are Wednesday the 19th and Thursday the 20th of July with a cross-Auckland stopwork meeting at the Alexander Racecourse next Thursday 27 July from 9.30 until 11.30. Factsheet Attached below

Shelf Respect

• Shelf Respect is a cross-industry supermarket campaign modeled on the success of the campaign

• The campaign is currently focusing on Progressive, but Foodstuff workers who have seen the campaign on TV and heard it on the radio are joining the campaign

• 2006 negotiations with Progressive start on Wednesday the 19th and Thursday the 20th of July.

• Progressive delegates and activists will be meeting at the Alexander Racecourse on Thursday the 27th of July to discuss the company’s response and vote to ratify any settlement or escalate the campaign


• We spent over $10 billion at checkouts last year

• Nearly $1 in every $10 is spent at a Supermarket in New Zealand


Company Shop Assistant Adult Rate Youth Rate Union membership
Woolworths Australia $15.26-$16.06 (+ penal rates and overtime) $6.10-$14.45 (+ penal rates and overtime) 80%
Progressive (New Zealand branch of Woolworths Australia) $11.11-$12.38 $6.25-$8.20 21% and rising
Pak N Save $10.25+ $6.25-$8.20 Less than 3%

• Adult workers in Progressive earn on average $12 an hour

• From 1991 to 1994 Youth wages in supermarket were cut by 44% and adult wages by 11%

• Between 2001 and 2005 wages increased more slowly in wholesale and retail jobs than the average for all jobs.


• Comparing the prices of some basic items sold by Woolworths on both sides of the Tasman show that not only do their Aussie staff get paid more, but their customers get charged less.

Product Australia ($NZ) NZ
Harris Coffee $6.71 $7.17
Nescafe Gold 100 $9.28 $9.67
Kelloggs Just Right $6.08 $7.20
Signature Range peaches in syrup $1.55 $1.89
Signature Range Olive Oil 500ml $4.33 $5.40
Milk 2 lt standard $2.88 $3.25
Panadol 24/20 $3.65 $3.93
Totals $34.48 $38.51
(Sourced from Woolworths online shopping in NZ and Australia)

• Skyrocketing food prices (and petrol prices) have a more severe impact on low and minimum wages workers


• Progressive have a supplier “hall of shame” in their entrance office ranking the worst suppliers in New Zealand

• The consolidation of supermarkets into two companies has increased their control of the food supply chain which allows them to pressure suppliers to depress their prices.

• The introduction of the Warehouse into the supermarket business is likely to increase the race to the bottom, affecting both supplierers and workers

• One concern suppliers have is the requirement to provide enough product for both NZ and Australia which could put small suppliers out of business.


• New Zealand’s supermarket industry is a ‘duopoly’ of two huge companies –Foodstuffs controls 56% of the market and Progressive Enterprises controls 44%

• Progressive is owned by Woolworths Australia, a gigantic company with turnover of $A32 billion last year, excluding Progressive Enterprises.

• The CEO of Woolworths Australia, Roger Corbett, takes home $A8.5 million a year – 340 times more than a full time checkout operator

• Mr Corbett earns in a day as much as a full-time New Zealand checkout operator earns in a year.


© Scoop Media

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