Food Industry Franchise Workers Targeted By New Union
By Esther Gutnick, Senior Associate, MST Lawyers
The recently established Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) is on a self-proclaimed mission to “bring back the penalty rates at Coles, Woolworths, McDonald’s and every other major employer in the Australian retail and fast food sectors”.
At its launch on 21 November 2016, the RAFFWU was described, by its Secretary Josh Cullinan, as “a dynamic new national union to represent the interests of retail and fast food workers in Australia”. The union’s advertised objectives comprise “fighting for and protecting the pay and rights of workers in the retail and fast food sectors”.
The RAFFWU’s first major campaign, “Taking Back Our Penalty Rates“, focusses on reclaiming the hundreds of millions of dollars in penalty, overtime, junior, casual and other rates which the Union alleges has been “stripped from so many workplaces”.
According to the RAFFWU’s claims, various enterprise agreements negotiated by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) for major Australian retailers and fast food companies are collectively short-changing 500,000 workers by over $300 million each year.
The RAFFWU, which is directly competing with the SDA for members, has announced its intention to target workers of certain franchise brands, including McDonald’s, Hungry Jacks, Red Rooster, KFC and Domino’s Pizza for membership recruitment.
This news and the RAFFWU’s future actions will be of particular interest to the many franchise chains that have negotiated enterprise agreements with the SDA. Some chains have entered into agreements where penalty rates have been traded for higher base hourly rates. The RAFFWU intends to attempt to overturn such enterprise agreements and restore what it considers “full penalty rates” to employees. Any such changes will result in significant impact to both employers and employees in the industry.