Fresh CWH union allegations


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

The National Union of Workers has accused Chemist Warehouse of treating labour hire casuals like “disposable machines”

The NUW has continued its campaign against Chemist Warehouse, which began last year with allegations of a “widespread culture of sexual harassment, bullying, and exploitation of labour hire casuals” at two Victorian distribution centres.

On its website and Facebook page, the NUW now features a video from Mackenzie, a NUW member who worked at the discount giant’s Preston distribution centre.

Mackenzie alleges that distribution centre 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.

Labour hire companies used by Chemist Warehouse were able to “cut off” workers “whenever they feel like it,” he claims.

“If anyone injured themselves it would more like that… they were treated as more your fault, and then ‘you should go home’ and then as a result you weren’t called in for maybe another week or so, potentially even longer,” he says in the video.

He told of being given one shift a week on occasion, netting him about $132, which he described as “no way to live”.

Mackenzie urged workers to “really consider hard before you work for this company” or join a labour hire company.

The NUW itself said on its Facebook page that “workers like Mackenzie have experienced first-hand the disrespect of Chemist Warehouse”.

“Labour hire casuals are treated as disposable machines, not like people,” says the NUW. “Often they are expected to wait on unpaid standby without any guarantee of their next shift.

“Chemist Warehouse could provide people with decent, safe and secure jobs – but they choose not to.

“We’ve spoken with people who have worked for years on end as casuals, only to have their shifts suddenly stop one day for no reason. It’s not right.

“We are calling on Chemist Warehouse to do better, and ensure that casuals who have passed a probationary period have the option to convert to permament (sic) positions.”

One commenter responded to the Facebook post by alleging that “everyday you would get an sms to advise if you are on Standby or working. The place has zero job security and the company has no interest making workers permanent”.

Another commenter – a group which has made a number of recent pro-union posts – claimed that bullying at the distribution centres intensified at busy times of the year such as Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day.

In November 2018, the NUW attended a Chemist Warehouse distribution centre to investigate allegations of bullying and sexual harassment.

In December, it alleged that Chemist Warehouse was “union busting”, saying that workers who signed its petition had stopped receiving shifts.

AJP has reached out to Chemist Warehouse for comment.

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