Union members at Country Road’s distribution centre in the Melbourne suburb of Truganina have walked out on indefinite strike.
The warehouse distributes fashion brands including Mimco, Trenery, Witchery and Politix.
According to the United Workers Union (UWU), the mostly female workers are paid significantly less than their counterparts in logistics and distribution and are fighting for a $1.50-per-hour pay rise to bring them in line with workers at the male-dominated warehouses in the area.
Solidarity spoke to Kirra Worthing, a team leader and union delegate about the issues.
“Our EBA expired back in April and we have been in negotiations since the start of the year.
“Since then we’ve just been going backwards and forward—putting forward the list of what we want and the company were offering.
“And we just got absolutely nowhere with anything that we asked for,” she said.
“We’re asking for a 4 per cent pay rise and the right to an RDO. We’re asking for union rights and casual conversion.”
But management is not budging so far. “We’ve hurt their feelings by standing up to them,” Kirra said.
Management has responded aggressively. “We have had registered post letters sent our houses,” Kirra said.
“We have had group toolbox meetings where they just read a whole speech to us, they tell us if we do any industrial action anything would be unlawful.
“There were a lot of threats. A lot of fear put into our casuals and our staff members to say that if they do anything there will be repercussions.”
UWU logistics coordinator Mick Power said: “I have worked with some antagonistic bosses in the past, but the behaviour displayed towards workers at Country Road Group by managers is frankly disgraceful.
“To give you a sense, one of the managers called me a c*** in a room full of staff last week. Imagine how they communicate with the workers whose financial security lays in their hands.”
The strike started on Thursday 11 November and management responded immediately with an injunction against blocking the gates the next day.
Kirra Worthing said: “That cost them $100,000. They’re prepared to fork out the money for that but not to give us a dollar pay rise.
“At the moment we’ve got casuals who are on $5-6 an hour more than team leaders.
“Fulltime is about $23-24 an hour. I worked casual here. Going from casual to full-time was a $15,000-a-year pay drop.”
Morale is good. “We’re going to stick it out,” said Kirra.
“Everyone is pretty stubborn, pretty strong. We just hope they come back to the table and give us a fair deal.”
Join the 24/7 picket line against #CountryRogues at 36-38 Permas Way, Truganina. Donate to their strike fund.
Interview by Jason Wong