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Coles, Woolworths promise ongoing negotiations after some workers strike

(Source: Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (Facebook))

Coles and Woolworths say they are committed to continuing negotiations with a small union representing workers who staged a strike last weekend demanding higher wages and favourable working conditions.

Both supermarkets expressed commitment to reach a deal with the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) that would benefit all concerned parties.

The union, which represents the protesting workers, said the wages Coles and Woolworths pay to these labourers are among the lowest in Australia. The union added that on top of not having secure jobs, these workers are facing abuse, assaults, threats and harassment in their workplaces.

The union said that Coles has decided to stand down workers who implemented bans on activities such as not cleaning up vomit or bodily fluids, tidying the manager’s toilet, or talking to customers about their industrial action.

However, Coles said it is providing above-award conditions under its current enterprise agreement and passed on the Fair Work Commission’s 5.75 per cent annual wage increase to its supermarket team members in July 2023.

“We dispute misinformation being pushed by the bargaining representative, which is not a registered trade union and represents 0.34 per cent of our total workforce of 120,000 people,” said a Coles spokesperson.

Both retailers said that their operations did not suffer during the weekends as only a small number of their workers participated in the strike.

“Tens of thousands of team members across our stores continued to serve our customers. Around 20 Coles team members nationally participated in Saturday’s stop-work action,” said the Coles spokesperson.

“We have more than 130,000 team members who work in our supermarkets and about 300 of these are covered by RAFFWU. Around 35 team members went on strike on Saturday,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.

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