For the second time in a week, the notoriously conservative Shop, Distributive and Allied Employee’s Association has been embarrassed by young Coles worker and union activist Duncan Hart. The SDA, which covers retail and fast food workers, is one of the largest unions in the country.
Last week, the Fair Work Commission upheld Hart’s right to appeal the national industrial agreement that the union reached with Coles earlier in the year. The new deal, already in effect, has scrapped night shift penalty rates and Saturday penalty rates, as well as a significant portion of Sunday rates. If Hart wins at Fair Work, tens of thousands of Coles workers will have that money put back into their pay-packets.
Hart’s defiant stand against his bosses, and his union’s sell-out deal, hasn’t gone unnoticed. Yesterday, he was nominated for the SDA’s annual Young Workmate of the Year Award. According to the union, the award is decided by popular vote and recognises young workers who support their workmates and “make the workplace a better place”.
Hart’s nomination describes his efforts “fighting tirelessly to improve the working conditions of all Coles employees”. Within hours of appearing on the union’s website, his profile had jumped into fourth place on the national voting tally, having amassed hundreds of votes and messages of support.
The union scrambled to respond to the surge and by the end of the day the online voting function on Hart’s candidate profile had been disabled. “It’s farcical but not really surprising that the SDA is rigging the vote”, Hart told Red Flag. “Unfortunately, the SDA’s whole practice is about squashing rank and file involvement in the union and cosying up with our bosses instead. This is just a particularly ludicrous example of the lengths it will go to shut activists out.”
The SDA did not respond to requests for comment about the voting irregularities.