Dispute over at the Reject Shop

Workers at a warehouse in Melbourne’s north-east have ended a drawn-out enterprise agreement fight, accepting a deal that they say is a win. The Reject Shop workers, members of the National Union of Workers, have secured an agreement that retains all of their existing conditions despite the boss’s concerted attempt to gut these.

Their dispute dates back to the expiry of their last agreement in July, when management went on the warpath, attacking redundancy and long service leave entitlements. The company also wanted to increase the number of casual workers and proposed the introduction of CCTV cameras to monitor staff in the warehouse.

It offered an annual pay rise of 2.7 percent if the workers gave away a raft of conditions. But for more than seven months, the workers stood strong. “They had 48 claims”, said union delegate Dave Sharpe, speaking to Red Flag, “and we didn’t budge on any of them. We saved all our conditions.”

Indicating the ferocity of management’s approach, Dave was sacked in the heat of battle last year and reinstated only after a union campaign.

The new enterprise agreement provides an annual pay rise of 1.5 percent, with back pay. Though this means that the Reject Shop workers’ wage rises will not match inflation, Dave said that they consider the agreement, as a whole, to be good, given the scale of management’s attack.   

“It has been a long struggle”, said Dave, “but the majority of people are rapt that we managed to stick it out. The point is, you don’t sell conditions.”