Joe de Bruyn outlines some of the recent achievements of the SDA union
Joe is the candidate for President in the election UNI will hold at its Congress in Nagasaki. Here are some of the achievements reached in his union, the SDA, in recent years.
These achievements cover a wide variety of areas from collective agreements and organising to human rights and union development aid.
McDonald’s Collective Agreement Signed
The Union has recently finalised a collective agreement with McDonald’s and all its franchisees in Australia which means that 80,000 employees of the company are now covered by a single collective agreement with the Union.
McDonald’s and its franchisees are committed to the recognition of the union including inviting union representatives to attend the induction of new employees, as well as to attend meetings of employees convened by the company from time to time. This is a remarkable achievement, given the reputation of McDonald’s as a global company with a general anti-union disposition.
“The union has for many years been developing relationships with McDonald’s and the Australian management of the company is comfortable with the Union relationship today. We are now seeking to slowly but surely build up our membership in McDonald’s as this provides us with a substantial opportunity for expansion.”
Paid Parental Leave
The SDA was actively involved in the campaign for universal Paid Parental Leave legislation. The SDA, along with the ACTU and other unions, fought hard to win this outcome with the work of SDA union shop stewards and members. The petitions were presented to Federal Parliament in mid June and was then tabled in the Senate. Paid Parental Leave was later passed into law. Now Australia finally has a Paid Parental Leave scheme that can be built on and improved.
The SDA takes an active approach to ensuring that their staff, shop stewards and members are educated and kept informed about sexual harassment and provides advice on how to deal with this issue if it occurs at the workplace. The SDA is totally committed to eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace and providing professional representation when necessary.
REST Superannuation (Pension Fund) & Employer Contribution Increases
The Retail Employees Superannuation Trust (REST) is the pension scheme for workers in the commerce sector in Australia of which the SDA provides 50% of the Trustee Directors. Joe is one of these Directors and is currently the Chairman of REST.
REST has recovered from the Global Financial Crisis faster than almost any other pension scheme with an 11.4% crediting rate to members for the financial year. Over the short and long term, REST has outperformed when compared to other pension funds.
The SDA has been a vocal advocate of increasing employer contributions to pension funds. As part of the recent Federal election campaign in August this year, the Australian Labor Party promised pension improvements including an increase in the compulsory employer pension contribution from 9% to 12% if it was elected to office. The SDA will hold them to this commitment until it is enacted.
Minimum Hours Win!
The SDA has defended temporary (or hourly rate) workers rights after employers attacked their right to a 3 hour minimum shift on any day they were rostered to work. A temporary worker in commerce is entitled to three hours minimum work on any day. The employers have been attacking this persistently throughout the year seeking a reduction to just 1.5 hours minimum.
The SDA fought with the employers in the new Tribunal established under the Labor Government's new Workplace Laws. The SDA won both the original decision before a single Tribunal member and more recently the appeal by the employers to a Full Bench.
The employers have had political support from the conservative parties in Australia on this matter which means this is a political win as well as a win for entitlements at the workplace for vulnerable workers.
Threats to Leave Entitlements
Earlier this year Woolworths (the largest supermarket chain in Australia) refused to acknowledge the full entitlement of workers on the ANZAC Day Public Holiday. ANZAC Day in Australia commemorates the service men and women who have died in various wars involving Australia in the past. The Union has taken the company to the Federal Court in a prosecution to achieve the entitlement of our members and we expect a decision in this current case shortly.
Other Collective Agreement Wins!
· Bunnings is a large hardware retailer in Australia with approximately 25,000 employees. The level of unionisation is 40% and growing. “Since opening in 1995 we have negotiated collective agreements where the rates of pay for workers are among the highest in the Commerce Sector in Australia.”
· A new collective agreement with Woolworths (Australia's largest supermarket chain) with over 100,000 workers and is highly unionised. In the past we have negotiated collective agreements on a State by State basis, but the new agreement, negotiated and approved by an overwhelming majority of employees (94%), is the first single national agreement between the SDA and the company.
· IKEA, one of the world’s leading retailers, had outstanding results. A significant wage increase was secured which, “puts the company ahead of anyone else in the industry… They [IKEA] understand the benefits of working constructively with unions to improve the standard of living for their workforce, especially young people and women, and other companies can learn from them.” Other benefits included up to 26 weeks of paid leave in the event of the birth or adoption of a child and for same sex couples; and the abolition of junior wage rates for young people. In many industries, often young workers under 21 are paid less. With the IKEA deal there will be no difference between the wage of an 18 year old and a 21-one-year-old. The SDA has been successful in other companies in beginning to correct this situation.
· Big W is a discount department store retailer in Australia with approximately 25,000 employees. It is highly unionised. A new agreement was negotiated and endorsed by employees which offers increases to wages, leave entitlements and more rights for permanent employees.
Bullying in the workplace
Bullying at the workplace has emerged as a serious issue in the Australian workforce in recent years and the SDA has been at the forefront in educating and advising its members on this issue. “We also negotiate with employers for the protection of workers against harassment and bullying at the workplace.”
Threats to Workers’ Rights - WorkChoices
In the recent federal election campaign in Australia, the conservative parties threatened a return of the anti-worker legislation (WorkChoices) that they had enacted in 2005 and which led to the defeat of that government in 2007. The Union campaigned actively for the re-election of a Labor government in the election campaign to protect workers’ rights.
Breast Cancer Research Fundraising
Each year the SDA is a major fund raiser for breast cancer research. With women comprising over 65% of our members, this is an important illness which affects women in society.
Bushfire Victims Support
In February 2009, there were devastating bush fires outside Melbourne in which approximately 170 people died and many homes were burnt to the ground. Some of those who died or lost their homes were SDA members. The SDA donated generously to the Red Cross, with many union Organisers visiting members after the fires to offer care and support.
Former Prime Minister Supports SDA in 100 years celebration
The SDA celebrated its 100th anniversary as a registered national trade union in May 2008.
Late last year our Victorian State Branch published a book on its 100 year history and invited the former Prime Minister Bob Hawke to the launch. Also in attendance were a number of retired SDA officials including the late Jim Maher who had been National President of the SDA from 1970 to 1995 and was active in FIET during most of this period.
The article quotes Bob Hawke as saying that the SDA is as, "close as you can get to a ten out of ten union".