Media release: FIRST Union
Tuesday May 7, 2013
FIRST Living Wage Victory For Retail Workers
This morning’s announcement by The Warehouse Group of a Career Retailer Wage has been welcomed by FIRST Union, the union for retail workers.
FIRST Union Retail Secretary, Maxine Gay, said the announcement of The Warehouse, on the eve of Collective Agreement negotiations with FIRST Union is excellent news for retail workers in The Warehouse and hopefully will start a trend to lift the retail sector wages from poverty levels to living wage levels across all chains.
Collective Agreement negotiations between FIRST Union and The Warehouse take place in early July which will determine the actual rates to be paid and put the final touches onto the career retailer wage concept.
“FIRST Union has been working constructively with The Warehouse for the last three years to raise pay rates, introduce skill based pay, comprehensive training for all roles and improved retention and engagement of workers in the company,” Maxine Gay said.
“The Warehouse workers joined FIRST Union in droves around 5 years ago during the dark period of The Warehouse leadership where cost cutting, including staff “costs” was the major management tool. Workers still shudder when they hear the words “Project Invigorate”.
“Last year, the union and The Warehouse workers accepted a lower wage rise than justified when the company was in a turnaround phase and the share price had dropped to record low levels.
“At that time The Warehouse CEO Mark Powell promised the workers and their union that the company would look at significant wage increases after the turnaround had been completed. We are pleased to see that Mark Powell is a man of his word,” said Maxine Gay.
“The actions of The Warehouse are in stark contrast to the Foodstuffs group where many Pak’nSave and New World supermarkets continue to pay minimum starvation wages, refuse to engage constructively with the union and are now trying to cut wages through the new youth rates provisions,” Maxine Gay said.
“Given that Foodstuffs is a major shareholder of The Warehouse we hope that the Living Wage commitment of The Warehouse may rub off onto the millionaires that run Pak’nSave and New World stores,” she said.
The announcement of The Warehouse is also a challenge to the other supermarket chain, Countdown, and the direct competitors of The Warehouse being Farmers, Briscoes and Kmart. FIRST Union will be negotiating Collective Agreements with all of these companies over the next few months.