We are the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU), formed in 2016 as a grassroots, member-led union for workers.

Our Union was formed so that workers in the retail and fast food industries could have an active union fighting for their rights.

Prior to RAFFWU’s founding, the main association operating in the Australian retail and fast food industries was the Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association (SDA). The SDA was responsible for helping retail and fast food employers perpetrate Australia’s largest ever wage theft.

Overturning rotten deals

In 2015 and beyond, a series of hearings in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) overturned enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs) made between major employers, including Coles, McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza, and the SDA. These agreements had cost workers millions of dollars in lost wages. Other EBAs at IGA, Bakers Delight and elsewhere were also overturned.

These hearings in the Fair Work Commission were brought by ordinary retail and fast food workers, with the help of experts.

Together, they were determined to expose the unfairness of the existing enterprise agreements.

One of the experts in the first case against Coles was Josh Cullinan, who went on to become RAFFWU’s founding Secretary.

In each case heard at the Fair Work Commission, EBAs struck between the SDA and major employers were found to have left workers worse off than they would have been under the relevant Award.

Workers worse off with the SDA

Under the Australian industrial relations system, an Award determines the minimum legal conditions and pay for workers in each industry. But these rotten EBAs struck between big employers and the SDA left workers worse off, because, in exchange for hourly rates that were often only a few cents above the Award minimum, the SDA had traded away penalty rates, casual loadings, allowances, overtime, secure work and many other rights.

You can read more about the history of the SDA and its anti-worker agenda on our SDA Facts page.

Common across many retail employers was:

  • Evening penalty rates of 25% removed;
  • Application of shift penalty rates reduced or removed;
  • Saturday penalty rates of 25% (35% for casual staff) removed;
  • Sunday penalty rates of 100% reduced or removed (note that since 2017 the Award rate is reduced from 100%);
  • Casual loadings reduced from 25% to 20%;
  • Junior rates for 17-year-old staff reduced from 60% to 55%;
  • Junior rates for 18-year-old staff reduced from 70% to 67.5%;
  • Removal of paid rest breaks for 4-hour shifts;
  • Other workplace rights reduced or removed.

Common across many fast food employers was:

  • Evening penalty rates of 10% removed;
  • Early morning penalty rates of 15% reduced or removed;
  • Saturday penalty rates of 25% removed;
  • Sunday penalty rates of 50% removed (note that as of 1 July 2017, the Award rate is 45%);
  • Casual loadings in addition to these rates reduced from 25% to 20% or removed;
  • Other workplace rights reduced or removed.

The removal of penalty rates by employers like Coles, Woolworths and McDonald’s meant that workers were being paid less than they would have been paid under the Award for casual hours, weekend hours, and late night and early morning shifts.

This meant a net loss of wages, over many years, to tens of thousands of retail and fast food workers, particularly workers who relied on weekend and/or evening work, and workers aged 18 years or younger.

RAFFWU is the only union representing retail and fast-food workers that has fought to have these rip-off deals overturned.

A photograph of union activists holding colourful, hand-painted placards. The placards have slogans including "We are stronger together" and "If you don't fight you lose".
Workers painting a banner that says, "Unskilled work doesn't exist!".
A group of Coles workers and union members standing

The Coles Case

The Fair Work Commission requires that every enterprise agreement it approves must pass the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT).

This test ensures that no worker is left worse off on an enterprise agreement than under the minimum conditions set by the Award.

In a landmark case lodged with the Fair Work Commission in late 2015, Coles trolley operator Duncan Hart, together with expert industrial advocate Josh Cullinan and barrister Siobhan Kelly, challenged the existing Coles enterprise agreement on the grounds that it did not pass the BOOT, and left the majority of Coles’ 70,000 workers worse off.

They won the case, and opened the door for further challenges to rotten EBAs. Read more about the Coles case below.

Kickbacks for the bosses

In 2015, investigative journalists Ben Schneider and Royce Millar revealed in The Age that the SDA was paying millions of dollars each year to Coles and Woolworths. The SDA claimed this money was to cover the administrative cost of Coles and Woolworths deducting SDA members’ fees from payroll. But the real administrative cost of payroll deductions would have been far less than what the SDA was paying to the bosses.

These fees are a form of commission: Coles and Woolworths are happy to sign up their workers to the SDA, and, in turn, the SDA gets to maintain a large membership base, which gives it influence in the Australian Labor Party (ALP). If you’d like to know more about the history of the SDA, and about how and why this socially conservative union has acted in concert with major employers to suppress wages and undermine the conditions of retail and fast-food workers in exchange for factional power in the ALP, see our SDA Facts page.

After The Age story was published, Josh Cullinan got in contact with the journalists involved. In his capacity as a private researcher, Cullinan analysed the Coles EBA that was approved in July 2015 by the Fair Work Commission. He had concluded that the deal would leave many workers worse off than they would have been had they been paid under the Award.

The Fair Work Commission requires that every enterprise agreement it approves must pass the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT). This test ensures that no worker is left worse off on an enterprise agreement than under the minimum conditions set by the Award. But the Coles deal did not pass the BOOT.

Coles and the SDA had gotten away with this in part because the sample rosters they had supplied to the Fair Work Commission were misleading: sample rosters focused heavily on ordinary weekday hours, when Award penalty rates would not apply, rather than on the kind of evening and weekend shifts that so many workers in retail and fast food are rostered for, and which do include penalty rates under the relevant Award.

In 2015 The Age published a story that backed Cullinan’s findings, and his analysis was confirmed by the Fair Work Commission. The FWC made Coles increase its casual and junior pay rates – increases that made a significant difference to these workers.

Duncan Hart takes Coles to the Fair Work Commission

In a landmark case lodged with the Commission in late 2015, Coles trolley operator Duncan Hart, together with Josh Cullinan and lawyer Siobhan Kelly, challenged the Coles EBA as it applied to all store workers, including permanent part-time staff, arguing that it still left the majority of Coles’ 70,000 workers worse off.

In 2016, the Fair Work Commission ruled in favour of Hart. “Taking into account all of these matters we are not satisfied that the Agreement passes the BOOT,” the Commission found. “For some employees, particularly those who work primarily at times which attract lower penalty rates under the Agreement when compared to the Award, the loss in monetary terms is potentially significant.” You can read the entire FWC decision here.

RAFFWU is founded

The case brought against Coles at the Fair Work Commission helped to expose a rotten situation within Australian workplaces.

As Ben Schneider and Royce Millar wrote in The Age in 2016: “most of the SDA agreements in retail and fast-food sectors allow pay and conditions significantly below the award, depriving low-paid workers of more than $1 billion during the last five years.”

These rotten deals included the existing EBA at McDonald’s, which saw some workers earning a third less than they would have under the Award, along with agreements at KFC, Hungry Jack’s and Woolworths.

In late 2016, in the wake of the Coles case, it was exposed that SDA officials were lobbying in Canberra to weaken the tests so that they could continue making sellout deals with employers. A decision was made among grassroots activists and workers to launch a new union – the Retail and Fast Food Worker Union (RAFFWU).

RAFFWU founding Secretary Josh Cullinan remarked to Green Left Weekly in November 2016: “A group of activists, retail and fast food workers and their supporters have decided enough is enough and that it’s time for a genuine trade union to step into this space.”

A group of union members at a rally standing behind the Union flag, smiling. They have a placard that says "Leave No One in Poverty".
A large group of union members and supporters at an outdoor rally, carrying the flags of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union. In the foreground of the image is a union member holding a megaphone.

A fair share for workers

Rip-off EBAs can’t be automatically overturned. Under the Fair Work Act, workplace agreements continue to operate after the nominal expiry date passes, until they’re either replaced or terminated by application to the Fair Work Commission.

Unless the laws change, workers must negotiate new agreements or terminate current agreements to get back the penalty rates and other conditions denied them. This is what Duncan Hart did in the case against Coles. Our members have gone on to take similar action to terminate rotten deals at Woolworths, Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Baker’s Delight and elsewhere. Every step of the way, the SDA has campaigned to stop workers getting backpay.

RAFFWU bargains for its members that appoint us as their bargaining representative. In 2017 we were heavily involved in enterprise bargaining negotiations with Coles and Domino’s Pizza. Our campaigns returned penalty rates and other conditions at these workplaces.

In 2018 and 2019 we were involved in major negotiations at Woolworths, Officeworks, Big W, BWS, Kmart, McDonald’s, KFC, Hungry Jack’s and Bunnings.

We have now been responsible for returning around $1 Billion per year in additional wages, penalty rates, casual loading and other rights which had been previously stripped in rotten SDA deals.

RAFFWU is also actively involved in other enterprise negotiations where members appoint us as their bargaining representative.

RAFFWU fights in the courts

Since our founding, RAFFWU has been involved in several significant legal cases in pursuit of workers’ rights and pay entitlements, on top of the many cases that the Union has brought to terminate rotten deals at the Fair Work Commission.

You can read more about some of these legal cases below.

Both the Domino’s Pizza and McDonald’s class actions are active, and you can find registration links for the actions in the appropriate sections below.

In 2020, we represented RAFFWU member and McDonald’s worker Chiara Staines in a case before the Federal Court.

The Court found that Tantex Holdings, a major McDonald’s franchisee, broke the law when stripping workers of paid 10-minute breaks, when it threatened workers for requesting access to toilets and water, when it coerced workers to not take breaks they were entitled to, and when it misrepresented the rights of workers. You can read the full judgement of the Federal Court here.

The Federal Court found that RAFFWU and Chiara acted in the national interest by bringing this case against McDonald’s. Justice Logan wrote in his judgement:

The policing by trade unions of compliance with industrial laws is a longstanding, legitimate role of trade unions. This does not just serve the interests of the particular workers concerned, or the trade union. It serves the national interest.

As a result of Federal Court orders in the Tantex Holding case, RAFFWU member Chiara Staines was paid $11,800 in compensation for more than 2 years of paid rest breaks that she was denied while working at McDonald’s.

But we know that Chiara’s case is just the tip of the iceberg, and that many more McDonald’s workers denied the rest breaks they were entitled to deserve justice.

This is why, in 2021, we gave our support to Shine Lawyers in launching a class action lawsuit against McDonald’s over its failure to provide paid 10-minute rest breaks to its workers.

The class action is the culmination of RAFFWU and Shine Lawyers’ joint investigation, following the historic litigation launched and run by RAFFWU and Chiara Staines in the Federal Court.

If you:

Are a current or former McDonald’s employee who has worked shifts of four hours or more:

  • in a McDonald’s corporate store between 7 December 2015 and 27 May 2022;


  • in a McDonald’s franchised store between 28 May 2016 and 27 May 2022;


  • you were not given 10 minute breaks during one or more of these shifts;

you may be eligible for the class action against McDonald’s.

We strongly encourage all eligible workers to register for the class action.

Find out more and register for the class action via Shine Lawyers’ dedicated website.

Domino’s workers were ripped off for years under rotten deals struck between Domino’s and the SDA.

Workers for this corporate pizza chain were being paid less than the minimum Award, losing out on Saturday and Sunday penalty rates, casual loading, evening penalty rates and many other basic conditions. The SDA endorsed these rotten agreements for more than a decade.

With the support of RAFFWU, specialist litigation firm Phi Finney McDonald is currently running a class action on behalf of Domino’s workers for unpaid wages during the time when the old, rotten EBA was in place.

This action went to court in November 2022 — if you are eligible for the class action it is important to register, in the event of any future compensation order made by the court.

You may be able to claim unpaid wages from Domino’s if you:

  • were employed in Australia as a Domino’s delivery driver or an in-store worker;
  • worked at a franchise store; and
  • were employed at any time between 24 June 2013 and 24 January 2018.

Find out more and register for the class action here.

In 2020, RAFFWU members at Woolworths Lilydale also launched a campaign for improved workplace safety, including store car park lights being kept on at night when workers return to their cars.

Workers at Lilydale won this campaign, but Woolworths retaliated by targeting union activists, including RAFFWU delegate Lauren Dyers, who was threatened with disciplinary action by Woolworths.

RAFFWU took Woolworths to court for this shameful union-busting behaviour. The litigation exposed the fact that Woolworths management was keeping a secret ‘RAFFWU tracker’ of union members’ activity, that the Woolworths Lilydale store manager had involved the SDA in suppressing the workers’ safety campaign, and that workers had their jobs threatened by SDA officials for their involvement in safety campaigning.

In response to the Federal Circuit and Family Court’s findings, the Woolworths Group promised to recognise the standing of RAFFWU as a union of workers, the Freedom of Association of our members and the right of RAFFWU to represent our members. Woolworths Group issued guidance to its Store Managers and HR/People Services staff. Woolworths was ordered by the court to apologise, in writing, to Lauren and paid her $3000 compensation.

You can read the full judgement handed down by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia here.

In 2022, RAFFWU members and Big W workers Linda Hart and Laura Rafiqi brought a case in the Fair Work Commission, with RAFFWU’s support.

This case concerned Big W’s removal of anti-fatigue safety matting at the Big W Noosa store.

Big W, a part of Woolworths Group, had stripped safety matting out from the Assisted Check Out and Door Greeter areas at the store, without asking workers first.

The Fair Work Commission found that the Woolworths group:

  • had not consulted workers before removing the store safety matting, even though they were obligated to;
  • were misguided and disrespectful to the workers affected;
  • had not maintained healthy and safe work conditions for its affected employees;
  • had been unjust and unreasonable in removing the safety matting.

While the Fair Work Commission case focused on the Noosa store, the outcome has relevance in all workplaces that require workers to stand while working. The case also demonstrates that with the backing of a fighting union, workers can defend safety requirements, equipment and procedures that have been unjustly removed by employers.

A group of rallying union supporters carrying colourful placards in support of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union.

RAFFWU at work

Ever since our founding in 2016, RAFFWU has been a member-led, democratic union. Our members decide what campaigns or actions they want to carry out in their workplaces, and our members are always at the negotiating table during any enterprise bargaining rounds.

Our members have led grassroots safety campaigns at Woolworths, including at Woolworths Moorabbin and Woolworths Lilydale. You can watch a short video about workers’ action at Woolworths Moorabbin on our Safety Campaign page.

Members at JB HiFi ran a significant survey tracking gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace during 2020.

In 2023, RAFFWU members at McDonald’s staged the first ever walk-out at a fast food store in Australia over the management’s refusal to address sexual harassment. Our members also organised the Gippsland Project Against Workplace Sexual Harassment, raising awareness among the local community, union members and local business of the need for safe workplace environments, with several businesses signing on to the list of demands.

Our members have taken significant and historic industrial action at retail and fast food workplaces including:

  • Apple, where in 2022 store workers staged the first nationally coordinated strike in Australian retail history;
  • Better Read Than Dead, where booksellers organised to win one of the best retail EBAs in the country;
  • McDonald’s, where RAFFWU members staged the first-ever union rally of McDonald’s workers in Australia, the first-ever walkout of fast food workers in Australia, and brought a landmark test case against McDonald’s for denying rest breaks to workers;
  • Coles and Woolworths, where in 2023 our members have taken industrial action for secure jobs and a living wage.

You can find out about what we do via our FAQs page.

If you work in retail or fast food, join us by filling in a membership form.

RAFFWU is your fighting union — a union for workers, not bosses.

A group of five union members standing with their arms around one another, outside as the sun sets. There are palm trees behind them.