Recent media reports have exposed ACTU and SDA demands on the Government (Liberal and National Parties) to prohibit participation in bargaining by individuals and to limit participation in bargaining by unions which are registered other than as an “Organisation of Employees”. These demands come after RAFFWU has forced retail and fast food employers to pay the much higher minimum Award conditions. In doing so, RAFFWU broke the illegitimate business model of SDA which was to help employers get rotten sellout agreements approved and in return have employers recruit to the conservative anti-worker SDA.
In return, the ACTU/SDA has promised to help weaken the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT). One example of this was in 2016 Coles argued the future value of earnings in a profession requiring a degree qualification could be used to reduce wages below the minimum Award now where the employer (Coles) allows workers to take unpaid leave to attend exams. This kind of utter garbage was rejected by the Fair Work Commission in the Hart v Coles case.
The Coles case launched in July 2015 and famously victorious in May 2016 was an action by an individual, Duncan Hart, against the outrageous selling out of him and his co-workers through yet another anti-worker SDA deal which catastrophically left the vast majority of Coles workers over $100M per annum worse off than the minimum Award.
It was a single worker, with a great legal team, which took down that deal and exposed the greatest wage theft of modern history.
RAFFWU was launched on 21 November 2016 after that decision. Since then we have been responsible for returning over $1 Billion per annum in penalty rates and other conditions through assisting workers terminate rotten agreements (like Domino’s Pizza and McDonald’s) or forcing companies to put in place better new deals (like Coles, Woolworths, Officeworks and many others.)
One of the reasons RAFFWU was launched was because following the Coles decision in July and August 2016 the SDA was lobbying in Canberra to wind back the BOOT. Four years later it appears their desire to return their business model of assisting exploitative employers to rip off low wage workers is coming to fruition. It would appear remarkable that a “solution” to the “problem” of the laws being applied in favour of low wage workers for the past 4 years is to try and deny their voice.
Friends of RAFFWU advised us that secret discussions within ACTU had devised a plan as part of the Change the Rules campaign to try and limit the role of RAFFWU at negotiations. SDA poured millions into the Change the Rules campaign in return.
Now we see the ACTU and SDA seek (not accept or acquiesce to) a structure which would try and limit RAFFWU and will stop individual workers from being involved in negotiations for their own agreement.
It is, in essence, the exact monopolistic sheltered protectionist racket that led to RAFFWU being launched. They have learnt nothing. Millions of workers had billions of dollars stolen from them. ACTU is a shell of what it once was. It now appears to be a paralysed lobby group and these changes will inflict not only seismic wounds on low paid workers in the coming years, but devastate the broader union movement in the decade ahead. It takes a special kind of wilful blindness to believe trying to limit the role of unions that aren’t registered organisations of employees will not spread with a different senate to all unions. These changes – proposed and pushed by ACTU/SDA – will be weaponised against all unions in the years ahead.
At the same time, the Liberal Government desperate to assist big business wants to ban the involvement of individuals in negotiating their own terms and conditions with their employer. This favour for big business will cost millions of workers, billions of dollars. We know this because that is exactly what happened before. It seems remarkable that a political party purportedly founded on the value of individual enterprise, ingenuity and agency would seek to ban the rights of workers to freely associate, to bargain for their workplace conditions and to hold those who have perpetrated mass wage theft to account. How ironic that the Liberal and National Government would want workers to only do that through registered organisations of employees such as SDA.
At RAFFWU we believe every single worker is worth more than all the gold in the world. We believe every single worker’s voice should be heard. We give those workers agency through their union, and we express solidarity with all other workers who stand for decent, fair and just working conditions.
These changes are only for the big end of town. For massive employers that have tens of thousands or over one hundred thousand workers. These employers are capable of running negotiations involving anyone who wishes to be involved within the current laws – they have all done it. RAFFWU was at the bargaining table at McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza, Coles, Woolworths, Kmart, Officeworks, KFC, Hungry Jack’s, Bunnings and so many more.
Big business was more than capable of “negotiating” with RAFFWU and individual workers who were representing themselves or their co-workers.
However, those businesses did not want a forensic eye to be cast on the deals they ended up cutting with SDA. Deals which all failed the BOOT. They all had to be abandoned or give further undertakings. Some failed more than just the BOOT. That is, RAFFWU made sure the tests were properly applied. That is what big business, SDA, ACTU and the Liberal Government are desperate to stop. It is now clear they will do anything to stop it – including eliminating the very voice of workers which exposed the greatest wage theft of the modern era.
We will never bow to illegitimate power. We will not only rise above but we will continue to build a militant workers union devoted to fighting back against the monied interests which oppress low wage retail and fast food workers. These proposals just expose who our real enemies are and workers will ensure history tells their story.