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Supermarket Pay Rises Welcomed But All Essential Workers Are Worth A Living Wage

FIRST Union welcomes the announcements made by supermarket chains Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises that workers will receive lockdown pay increases but is cautioning that the details of these promises matter and all essential workers should be earning a living wage at a minimum on a permanent basis, including those working earlier in the supply chain and in other essential services, FIRST Union said today.

"We’re finally understanding the value of our retail workers, who are putting themselves at risk and working tirelessly to keep our pantries stocked and our people fed during this crisis," said Tali Williams, FIRST Union Secretary for Retail, Finance and Commerce.

"It has taken a pandemic to recognise these people as essential, but that is what they’ve always been, and it’s the reason we fight for living wages for all retail workers."

"While we’re praising the supermarkets for their decisions, we have concerns that the pay rise is just a temporary measure, when those workers are worth a living wage in any context, not just when they’re some of the only businesses open."

"In terms of Foodstuffs, we want to ensure that the pay rise applies to all branches of Pak’n’Save and New World and isn’t just a ‘recommendation’ from their head office to individual store owners - unfortunately, the franchising model used by Foodstuffs has traditionally made it difficult to achieve consistent wages and conditions across the country."

"At Progressive, we must make sure that the increase also applies to salaried workers, because there’s a concern that those expected to lead their teams during this crisis are not receiving any increase themselves."

"Most of all, other employers considered ‘essential’ should be looking to this kind of proactive approach and passing on the pay rises those workers are due, crisis or no crisis - we’re talking about bus drivers, truck drivers, distribution centre workers and others in the retail supply chain."

"These people are all working through the lockdown and are worth at least a living wage."

"Finally, this situation we find ourselves in shows why unions and campaigners have consistently called for Fair Pay Agreements, particularly in supermarkets and other big retailers - at a time like this, it would be very useful to be able to set wage rates and conditions across an entire sector and not rely on the goodwill of individual employers."

"We’re calling on all employers engaging essential workers during the lockdown to, at minimum, pay their staff a living wage - and make it permanent, because they’re worth it."

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