Down down, wages are down: Coles staff pressured to work for free

Staff at a Western Australian Coles supermarket were reportedly asked to be paid in pizza in lieu of wages for four hours of stocktake on Sunday.

The request came as a note from a trainee manger to the store’s 65 staff, posted on the on the employee notice board, an ABC report alleged.

“Yes it is a big ask and I would not be requesting this unless it was absolutely necessary,” the manager's note read.

A Western Australia Coles manager reportedly requested staff to work four hours for pizza to help clear stocktake backlog. Picture: File

“I would really appreciate you coming to help.”

The “free” pizza would not be provided until the work was completed at 9.30pm, according to the notice.

The request for free labour came weeks after the Fair Work Commission decided to slash Sunday penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers.

The unusual Coles request prompted several employees to contact their union, The Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers Association (SDA) to lodge a complaint, ABC Radio Perth reported.

The note posted on the staff noticeboard requesting free labour. Picture: Supplied

SDA state secretary Peter O’Keeffe told Geoff Hutchinson’s radio program the request was “unacceptable”.

Mr O’Keeffe said SDA immediately got in contact with the manager to advise the request would not be allowed.

“He argued perhaps a little bit but then took the message down. We also raised it with Coles head office, because this is clearly very concerning.

“Coles at the senior level are aghast that he actually took this step and they have taken steps to make sure not only that it doesn’t proceed but that it doesn’t happen again.”

Hutchinson read excerpts from a letter sent to the ABC by an employee of the supermarket giant, named only as Nick.

He believed the request would have been a result of pressure from the regional manager to have the work done by a specific timeframe.

A number of workers complained about the request to their union, who quickly stepped in to have the notice removed and bring the request to the attention of Coles head office. Picture: File

“Hours have been cut drastically at each store, workloads increased massively.

“Having said that the pressure from above does not result in an increase in hours to be passed on to the store to complete the work,” Hutchinson quoted the four-year employee.

In response to the reported request, a Coles spokesperson said the note “was completely out of step with Coles’ way of working,” a statement read.

“The notice, which was posted by a trainee manger, was quickly removed. Any team members working at the stated time will be paid as normal.”

An anonymous insider told the radio program that expecting staff to work unpaid was “rife”.

“Hours and wages keep getting cut and more is expected to be done with less.

“Everyone is overworked. This store manager would have been under extreme pressure from a regional manager and state operations manger to get the job done without spending any more money,” Hutchinson quoted the source as saying.

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