Mining wage

Australian Apple retail workers to strike against proposed pay cut deal

About 150 Apple retail workers will stop work for an hour on Tuesday amid a dispute over a new corporate deal that will cut real wages. After the strike, the workers will apply a series of limited work bans for an indefinite period.

While workers across Australia will take part in the industrial action, the main impact will be felt in two stores in Brisbane and one in Newcastle, where the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) has the most coverage on Apple workers.

Screenshot of a meeting of Apple workers before the industrial action

Most of the company’s roughly 4,000 Australian employees will not participate in the shutdowns or bans, despite being covered by the same agreement, as the Australian Services Union (ASU) and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association ( SDA) declined to call for industrial action.

In addition, many workers do not have the right to strike because they are not members of any of the three unions — 35 non-union representatives are involved in the negotiations. Under Australia’s tough industrial relations laws, only workers who are members of a registered union are allowed to strike.

Apple is offering workers annual wage “increases” of just 2.6%, a massive wage cut in real terms. This paltry pay increase will only be granted to workers who are currently receiving the minimum rate for their classification, which has been frozen since the last company agreement expired in 2018. According to ASU, this means that 75% of Apple retail employees will get nothing. at all.

Apple is also seeking to retain the terms of the existing agreement that allow the company to enroll any employee on any shift, seven days a week, with no fixed workdays from a period of two weeks to another.

Part-time employees currently have no guaranteed minimum hours, which means they are effectively treated as casuals by the company, but do not receive the 25% casual wage charge required by Australian law on work. The proposed agreement provides for a minimum of 19 hours of work per week for part-time workers, but will still require them to be available for work at all times.

Under the proposed deal, workers will not receive evening penalty rates until 8 p.m. Although this is a marginal improvement on the previous agreement, in which normal hours extend to 10 p.m., workers will still be deprived of one hour of pay on the national wage. . retail price, which requires time and a half from 6 p.m.

The proposed agreement also fails to respect the provisions of the award which guarantee those who work regularly on Saturdays and Sundays, a weekend off every four weeks and consecutive days off. The RAFFWU also warned that the agreement could allow workers to be scheduled for up to 60 hours a week without overtime.

These terms expose the company’s claims that salaries at Apple are 17% above the industry standard.

ASU is asking for CPI plus 2.5% annual salary increases, and evening penalty rate increases that are still below the retail allotment. The RAFFWU is calling for an immediate increase in the minimum base rate of pay to $31 an hour and annual wage increases of 5% or CPI plus 2.5%, whichever is greater.

While the RAFFWU has presented a long list of demands, its recent agreement with the Readings bookstore chain makes it clear that the union is ready to make major concessions to employers. The deal, which the union described as “one of the best retail deals in Australia”, included penalty rates below the sentence.

Previous corporate deals at Apple were mostly negotiated between different sections of management. The “employee representative” who signed the 2014 agreement was the general manager of the company’s main Australian store in George St, Sydney.

In an attempt to avoid industrial action over the new deal, the company tried to ram the deal through before unions could present a register of demands or hold a strike vote.

In August, according to the unions, Apple provided workers with a draft agreement, but did not inform the unions that the bargaining period had begun.

On September 19, Apple again attempted to circumvent the unions, sending the proposed “final” agreement directly to workers and notifying them that a vote would be held in seven days.

This was rushed into a deliberate ploy to prevent workers from striking. A protected action ballot called by the RAFFWU was due to close on September 26, after which a minimum of three days’ notice of any industrial action would have to be provided to Apple.

A lawyer for the company told the Fair Work Commission on September 20: “Any change in schedule… increases the very real risk of being exposed to protected industrial action on or after the 30th of this month.”

After the unions asked the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to stop the vote, the company agreed to continue negotiations. The RAFFWU told Apple its members would walk off the job for 24 hours if the company called another vote on a deal the union did not approve.

The main objective of the industrial action by RAFFWU and the legal challenges launched by the three unions is to guarantee the bureaucracies a “seat at the table” in the behind-the-scenes negotiations with the company.

The three unions are highlighting Apple’s dire conditions, not out of genuine concern for workers’ interests, but in an effort to bolster their membership in the well-known company, where their coverage has been limited since the company opened its first Australian store in 2008.

The SDA is known to work hand in hand with big retailers and fast food chains to cut wages and conditions for some of the lowest paid workers in the country.

The RAFFWU bills itself as an alternative to the SDA and was formed in 2016 in response to widespread anger over revelations of SDA deals that had allowed hundreds of thousands of workers to be paid less than legal minimums.

Despite RAFFWU’s self-proclaimed outsider status, its founder and secretary, Josh Cullinan, is a career union bureaucrat, having previously held full-time positions with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMUE).

The RAFFWU is positioning itself as a magnet for workers angered by the continued assault on their pay and conditions and frustrated by decades of betrayal by the SDA and other unions. It promotes the idea that workers can get decent wages and conditions simply by joining a more ‘militant’ union.

Like the SDA and other unions, the RAFFWU defends the whole framework of corporate bargaining and pro-corporate labor courts that have been used over the past forty years to slash workers’ wages and conditions. and suppress the class struggle.

The aim of the RAFFWU is to buttress this apparatus with militant verbiage, and to prevent the workers from breaking with the unions, which are no longer workers’ organizations in the proper sense of the term. Its rhetoric is directed against the formation of independent rank-and-file committees, directly controlled and democratically directed by the workers themselves.

RAFFWU, like all other unions, defends the capitalist system, in which the economy and society as a whole are dominated by massive corporations such as Apple, which is valued at over $2 trillion.