Employees working for supermarket duopoly Coles and Woolworths will walk off the job this weekend as they demand better pay and conditions in what’s being touted as a first national supermarkets strike in Australian history.
The two-hour work stoppage will be held on Saturday from 10am in stores in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, the ACT, and SA.
Staff allied with the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) will walk off the job, with the union predicting about 1000 of its members will take part.
“Tonight, almost 100 Coles members unanimously endorsed implementing all bans in full this Saturday and preparing for a Christmas superstrike at Coles,” reads a post of the RAFFWU Facebook page, posted Tuesday evening.
“The attacks today by Coles on workers speaks volumes for the utter disregard they have for a workforce abused, threatened and assaulted in stores while paid poverty wages.”
Although Woolworths workers are also involved, the union appears to be going harder on Coles due to reports the company will stand down and refuse to pay any worker who strikes.
RAFFWU federal secretary Josh Cullinan told Nine News workers are being paid only a few cents more than the minimum wage.
“They just want a living wage to deal with the rising cost of living, they can‘t even afford the groceries they’re selling,” Mr Cullinan said.
“We want to see each time a worker is assaulted or abused to be treated like a crime. The level of abuse, threats intimidation and assaults is unprecedented and outrageous and the employers are not lifting a finger to stop it.”
A Coles spokesperson said they’re “working collaboratively with our team members and bargaining representatives on a proposal for a new Supermarket Enterprise Agreement.”
“Coles is committed to delivering an outcome that balances the needs of our team members, the sustainability of our business and ensures we can continue to deliver great value and experiences for our customers,” the spokesperson said.
While a Woolworths spokesperson said the company has been in regular contact with RAFFWU bargaining representatives, and have had an initial bargaining meeting.
“We have a long history of bargaining in good faith with our team and will continue to do so,” the spokesperson said.
“However, we acknowledge and respect the right of team members to take protected industrial action.”
Coles predicts about 450 of its staff nationally are RAFFWU members, and about 300 Woolies members are also aligned with the trade union.