LETTER: Time for Big W to stand by its workers
THE Warwick Big W DC has been here for over 19 years and has been the bread and butter employer to many current and past residents of this town and surrounds. The site is run by Woolworths and employs 120-160 workers now, a stark contrast to the 300+ full time casual and part timers that once had a 24 hour operation.
The shed has been through some good management changes over the last 5 years with decisions being made to make this DC one of the most cost effective in the country. The workers have put a lot of effort into working smarter instead of harder.
Once upon a time, Warwick was a very cheap place to live, but growing costs of living, rates driving up rents, rents driving up house prices and the ever present costs of goods and services that need to be brought to us, and a lack of competition in our tight knit economy means that we must pay full price for most things.
READ TODAY'S STORY: Warwick Big W workers in pay push
Our DC has also been one of the lowest paid in regards to the business of the site, sitting a few dollars above the minimum award for a store person while working in a labour intensive position. Few jobs in our shed are sitting down, or without key performance indicators to keep up with.
With these things in mind the Workers of Big W have decided they want to keep up with the rest of QLD and Australia and go into negotiations with Woolworths with a much stronger goal, year after year we have simply accepted a pay increase that sustains the buying power of our wage, a percentage that falls in line with the rising costs of living and no more.
This time we have united and formed a Union onsite with the guidance and resources of the NUW, a major warehouse centred Union, that has strong national solidarity to Woolworths, Coles and many other distribution centre workers around the country. It is firstly a member driven union, taking steps only with the backing of its onsite members.
This time we have asked for a pay rise that brings us up 1 or 2% above what our wages would be if we had continued to stay with the same earnings vs. buying power, our initial claim was for 6% though 17% would bring us in line with Brisbane DCs. This has been a hard struggle with the company claiming that this would fatally cripple the sustainability of the DC.
We beg to differ, our research has shown us a few things, one, what we are asking for in dollar terms is a drop in the ocean to the profit of the company in fact less than 1/3rd of a %, and two, that the company can't get cheaper labour and transport costs any time soon, there's still x amount of work that needs to be done by x amount of people, and we are situated nicely between northern NSW, Western QLD, Brisbane and Northern QLD which is where our 53 stores are. Their other DCs in NSW and SA are already on a higher pay rate and if they took our work there, they would most likely have to open another shift to cater for the 120-160 workers, then ship it all back up here? Their other option would be sell out their workers completely third party logistics operator in Brisbane. This too would have its consequences, as the company would have little control over the quality and productivity. It would be a 'no-name brand' workforce most likely on the minimum wage and made up of low socio-economic people.
Target/Kmart went down this path and has recently turned back to having its own properly paid staff.
We are standing strong and need to let our community know that we are not at risk of taking this so far as to shut the site, instead we will make it better, united workers are more productive.
We believe this is also part of a greater social issue, all around the country people are doing more for less and the fruits of their labour are not being returned to their local economies nor contributing to the strength of this nation. More often than not those very efforts in monetary terms are being stockpiled offshore. It's all part of a strip-mine corporate culture that if left unmanaged will lead this country down a path of financial collapse.
Though we on the ground floor may feel helpless, we can do something in our workplaces and that is to hold Big Business accountable to its practices and encourage them to be part of our community again. If not the people will simply vote with their money and fail to support them, it's on all our conscious to take action and make changes to change our future.
We ask that the community support us in this gruelling time of sleepless nights and high tensions.