By Adam Carlton
After a two-week strike, workers at the Chemist Warehouse distribution centres at Somerton and Preston in Melbourne and Eagle Farm in Brisbane score an important win.
They had been fighting to raise wages significantly below the industry standard and to end the large scale casualisation of work.
The distribution centres supply the Chemist Warehouse and My Chemist outlets, where stocks were beginning to run low.
The company has been operating as a franchise, with a complex of partnerships, between the founders and individual pharmacists, which till now, has helped skirt legal requirements.
According to the National Union of Workers (NUW), management has offered an immediate 8.75 per cent pay rise and over four years, with 18.75 to 22.5 per cent over four years. This is an incredible win in today’s climate, where employers are playing hard ball and wages are lagging across the board.
Company director Damien Gance said in joint statement with the union, “Our people are critical to our success, and we have been able to achieve a balance between rewarding our current team and being able to continue to grow and offer more job opportunities.”
The immediate wage rise will apply to all existing causal labour hire workers, and the jobs of those who were on strike will also be made permanent immediately. The jobs of those who worked during the strike will be able to be converted ongoing positions after six months.
A win of such a scale, is likely to set a new benchmark for disputes at other companies and may well contribute to breaking the near wage freeze and help improve the position of the casualised workforce.
Wages grew by just over 2.3 percent in 2018.
The NUW is now targeting DHL, the biggest logistics company operating in Australia, which faces its own indefinite strike, and a demand for a 7 percent wage increase for more than 500 workers in Victoria and NSW.
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