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
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
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.