CWH workers walk out

Striking Chemist Warehouse workers. Image courtesy NUW.
Striking Chemist Warehouse workers. Image courtesy NUW.

As Chemist Warehouse distribution workers strike, the NUW has launched a petition for those who support them

Workers at Chemist Warehouse distribution centres in Preston and Somerton in Victoria, and Eagle Farm in Brisbane, are now on indefinite strike in a bid to improve wages and conditions.

According to the National Union of Workers, they are demanding wages and conditions on par with industry standards; conversion from labour hire casual roles to permanent jobs; and “an end to the toxic culture of bullying and harassment”.

The NUW has to date alleged that the Victorian warehouses are subject to a “widespread culture of sexual harassment, bullying, and exploitation of labour hire casuals”.

It says Chemist Warehouse distribution centre workers earn about 25% below the industry standard.

“This is a David and Goliath struggle,” said Tim Kennedy, NUW National Secretary.

“It is a struggle between haves and have-nots. Workers’ wages are declining while wealth and power continues to grow at the top end of town.

“This is a matter of justice for these workers.

“Chemist Warehouse should agree to treat their workers with respect and pay wages and conditions that meet the industry standard.”

An NUW spokesperson told the AJP that the union intends to continue to negotiate with the company.

The union has received an “outpouring” of community support, and union members are running “very well organised and peaceful” strikes across the three sites, the spokesperson said.

They also told the AJP that a petition launched to support the striking workers received hundreds of signatures within minutes of going live.

The petition was launched after NUW received “many” queries from people who want to support the strikes but are unable to attend, they said.

“We will not stop until all Chemist Warehouse workers have secured industry standard wages, secure jobs, and a safe workplace free from bullying and sexual harassment,” the petition states.

“Chemist Warehouse relies on broken rules to keep workers in insecure work—about 70% of staff in distribution warehouses are labour hire casuals.

“Many workers who have years of experience with the company are made to rely on daily text messages, sometimes as late as 10pm, to confirm if they have a shift the following day. Being placed on unpaid standby for days or weeks on end is also common.

Workers are afraid to speak out for fear of losing shifts. The workplace culture is toxic, with many of us facing bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment.

“Chemist Warehouse could provide us with decent, safe and secure jobs— but they have chosen not to. We’ve been bargaining with the company since 2018 but they have ignored our demands.”

The AJP has reached out to Chemist Warehouse for comment.

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