Today’s attack on the SDA by the Council of Small Business of Australia betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of industrial relations in the retail sector.

SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer said the thrust of Peter Strong’s attack appears to be that the SDA is colluding with major retailers to lock small operations out of the industry by negotiating decent wages and conditions.

My Dwyer said the reality is that the SDA has conducted robust negotiations with the majority of major retailers that have delivered material benefits to its more than 200,000 members in the sector.

As part of the current Coles enterprise agreement, the SDA has achieved the best possible wages and conditions for members which mean that:

  • The average weekly rate for a Coles employee is around $80 above the award rate, and these higher hourly rates are paid right across the week;
  • Further 3 per cent increases have been locked in for each of the next two years. This compares to current wage increases in Australia’s private sector of 2.3 per cent pa;
  • Coles workers have a range of superior conditions, including an additional holiday, other additional leave entitlements, superior rostering conditions; and
  • The SDA has also pushed the major employer to stop paying younger workers aged over 18 junior rates. Real progress has been made in this area and major retailers have been well ahead of the award due to the efforts of the SDA.

“The simple fact of the matter is that the SDA has very effectively negotiated above average wages and conditions for many of its members, a fact that the union is very proud of,” Mr Dwyer said.

“Mr Strong’s real motive for attacking the constructive engagement between the SDA and the major retailers from his reported comments is very clear – his members don’t want to provide their workers with better pay and conditions.

“Mr Strong is criticising SDA enterprise agreement in the major retailers, while at the same time rejecting such agreements for his members because he says they would increase wage costs and were too restrictive.  He can’t have it both ways.

“Additionally, Mr Strong’s serious assertions about ‘commissions’ being paid reflect another layer of ignorance about the industrial arrangements in the retail sector.

“The reality is the SDA pays a small administration fee to manage payroll deductions based on the number of hours worked (the less you work the less you pay) and to establish the 60,000 financial gateways we need to create every year for new members.

“While the attack on the SDA has given Mr Strong a headline, it has also undermined his credibility as a serious leader in the retail industry.”

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