The Guardian • Issue #1988

Unionists protest as Better Read Than Dead management renege on deal

Workers at Better Read Than Dead (BRTD) have recommenced industrial action after management reneged on an in principle deal reached in July this year.

The historic agreement was not only the first EBA in an Australian bookstore but was reached after a hard-fought battle that saw the first instance of industrial action in the Australian retail sector in over fifty years.

The in-principal agreement included optional casual to part-time conversion for all members; minimum consultation times for major changes and redundancies with rights to redeployment and severance pay; reclassification of all workers to at least Retail Employee Level 3 following probationary periods; restoration of 100 per cent Sunday penalty rates; abolition of Junior Rates following probationary periods; an hourly base rate $1 more than the Award minimum; a pathway to a $25 per hour living wage in the future; health and safety clauses as well as policies and rights detailed in the agreement; twenty days’ paid domestic violence leave, twenty-six weeks paid parental leave; and a number of other important outcomes.

However, after what RAFFWU described as “several months of unnecessary delays,” Better Read Than Dead is attempting to walk back agreements on job security, parental leave, Sunday penalty rates, and junior rates.

Workers hit back quickly, recommencing their industrial action in the form of bans on overtime, web orders, cash handling, picking returns, and window displays from Saturday 13th November until a fair agreement is secured.

An impromptu rally held on the Saturday saw dozens of protestors march down Newtown’s King St in support of the workers. The action was supported by members of the United Workers Union, Maritime Union of Australia, Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, as well as members of the Communist Party of Australia.

Speaking to the crowd, Emma, a RAFFWU member who works at the bookstore, spoke of the harassment workers have been put through and how the store still has no sexual harassment policy despite it being a key component of the previously reached agreement.

Luca, a RAFFWU member who was fired “unceremoniously” explained the intimidatory union-busting tactics employed by BTRD management, including harassment, bullying, threats of termination, and even threats of defamation suits from lawyers.

Attendees then dispersed to distribute thousands of leaflets about the dispute to locals, homes, and business in the surrounding area.

A major rally has been called for 5 PM on Friday the 19th of November at Camperdown Memorial Park to demonstrate community support for the worker’s struggle and to pressure Better Read Than Dead to commit to the previous deal.

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