The Guardian • Issue #1990

Country Road workers on strike

Workers at the Country Road distribution centre in Truganina, Victoria, are on strike after the company declined a request for a $1 p/hour pay raise in the lead up to the busy Christmas Season. The workers, represented by the United Workers Union, earn little more than the minimum wage and struggle to make ends meet. The union also alleges that the company has used intimidatory tactics to deter the workers from industrial action, including laying manure on a planned union rally site and visiting workers at their homes. Workers, many of whom are migrant women, have been told they could lose their jobs if they join union action.

In 2020 the Country Road group increased their profits by forty-four per cent and pocketed $25 million in JobKeeper subsidies from the taxpayer. Country Road is owned by South-African based retail conglomerate Woolworths Holdings Limited, which also owns fashion brands Mimco, Trenery, Witchery, and Politix. Woolworths Holdings Limited is not related to the Australian supermarket chain. In the financial year 2020-21, Woolworths Holdings Limited reported a profit of $450 million, an increase of 260 per cent from the previous year.

Instead of sharing these profits with the workers who created them, Country Road Group has subjected workers to rampant insecure work, low wages, bullying and intimidation, and slashed their rights to organise as a union on site. Wages for warehouse workers at Country Road are below the industry average, by as much as $10 p/hour. This is not the first time Country Road has mistreated workers. In 2019, the company was found to have underpaid staff by $3.7 million.

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