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Unite Campaign In Australia Wins Major Victory Against Low Pay
THE SOCIALIST Party-initiated Unite campaign and workers at the massive US multi-billion dollar Borders Books company have won a massive victory!
Stephen Jolly, Australia
This company, for the first time in their history in Australia (and possibly the world), have had to accept a collective agreement, penalty rates (overtime payments) and union representation.
This is a great victory for the Unite campaign and for the workers themselves.
Unite campaigns against the exploitation of casual workers. In March 2004, Unite was approached for help by Borders Books staff, who earn a flat rate of less than A$15 an hour (£5.72), with no penalty rates. They are on individual contracts, unlike most Australian workers who are on collective agreements.
The company made US$3.8 billion last year, and has a strong anti-union stance. It is to books what McDonalds is to food and Starbucks is to coffee. Despite the fact that Borders do not employ casuals, Unite took the case on. It's outrageous that people are expected to work in permanent jobs on such poverty wages for such a rich capitalist firm.
After weeks of intense campaigning by Unite and Borders staff, management announced that they would not oppose the introduction of the Retail Award (collective agreement) when the issue returns before the Industrial Relations Commission in Melbourne.
The back-down by the multi-billion dollar company came after six rallies (four outside the Carlton store and two at Prahran) by Unite, mass petitioning, postering as well as the brave stance of Borders workers themselves.
Borders feared that continued opposition to their workers' just demands might lead to a boycott campaign by Unite and industrial action from their staff.
This is a great victory for collective action, for Borders staff and for the new Unite group. It is an important precedent for other workers in stores such as Starbucks.
Staff will be watching very closely to ensure that the SDA (Shop Distributors Association, a right-wing trade union for retail workers) does not sell out any Retail Award provisions in order to get Borders management to sign.
In The Socialist 26 June 2004:
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