CWH workers plan strike


National Union of Workers representatives attend a Chemist Warehouse distribution centre. Image: NUW via Facebook
National Union of Workers representatives attend a Chemist Warehouse distribution centre. Image: NUW via Facebook

Chemist Warehouse workers at three distribution centres have voted to take strike action which could begin as soon as next week

The workers are seeking a pay rise of 25-30%, as well as a higher proportion of permanent jobs.

“Distribution centre workers are demanding industry standard wages and conditions, secure jobs, and a clean-up of the toxic culture of sexual harassment and bullying,” Matt Toner, industrial officer at the National Union of Workers, told the AJP.

In a Facebook post the NUW said that the decision to strike was “long overdue”.

“Workers are fed up with making billions of dollars for a company which could easily provide decent jobs, but chooses not to,” it wrote.

Late last year, the NUW issued allegations that there was a “widespread culture of sexual harassment, bullying, and exploitation of labour hire casuals” at two Victorian warehouses, at Preston and Somerton.

It later said the discount group was engaging in “union busting,” and claimed workers who had signed a petition to commence industrial bargaining beginning to lose shifts thereafter.

The NUW also interviewed a former worker at the Preston distribution centre, Mackenzie, who alleged that workers were given starting times for their shifts, but no finishing times and were subject to cessation of allocation of shifts without warning, including if they were injured on the job.

Meanwhile a current worker and union delegate, Husain Alqatari, has told Fairfax media that at the distribution centres, “hundreds” of casuals fight for “limited” positions.

“You have to work fast, you have to be like an animal. If you don’t reach your target you don’t get your shift,” he said.

The two distribution centres, as well as a third in Eagle Farm, Queensland, are “crucial” in supplying products to pharmacies in the Chemist Warehouse and My Chemist group, Fairfax media report.

Workers at these three key location have voted to support industrial action, which could begin next week.

The Chemist Warehouse group employs more than 9,500 staff members and has more than 300 retail stores across the country, as well as several in the New Zealand market, which it recently entered.

“The founding families of Chemist Warehouse have skirted industry regulations to build this empire, but have done so at the expense of everyday working people,” Mr Toner told the AJP.

“It is unacceptable that a multi-million dollar company can continue to deny their workers decent pay and secure jobs.”

“This is a seminal dispute about inequality and fairness in this country, and we hope that pharmacists and the wider community will support these workers all the way.”

AJP has reached out to Chemist Warehouse for comment.

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