The Guardian • Issue #2030

First national industrial action in retail

RAFFWU members strike at Apple

The Brisbane strike.

Members of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) went on strike in the first nationally co-ordinated industrial action in retail in Australian history.

Up to 150 RAFFWU members in Apple stores around the country stopped work for an hour on Tuesday 18th October as part of an on-going enterprise bargaining agreement negotiation.

Union members in Newcastle and Brisbane held rallies, where RAFFWU delegates addressed crowds of unionists and supporters. Speakers demanded action and spoke of the stress caused by issues such as union busting and unfair rostering.

Apple workers are fighting for safety policies covering bullying, workplace harassment, and discrimination; job security rights including set rosters for part time employees; fair leave provisions; and living wages.

Staff at Apple are treated as casuals, required to be available seven days a week and denied set rosters. Disgracefully, Apple also pays less than minimum Award wages through a rotten enterprise agreement that doesn’t pay any casual loading.

In addition to work stoppages, RAFFWU members have begun imposing more than a dozen work bans from Wednesday, including refusing to accept deliveries, sell certain items, or repair certain items.

Shamefully, Apple has engaged in a vicious union-busting campaign, removing flyers created by staff with information about the campaign, as well as claiming that some workers’ industrial action is unprotected and threatening to unlawfully cut wages.

This comes after Apple has repeatedly refused to treat workers with respect, negotiate with unions, and present a fair offer.

“Apple has refused to bargain in good faith, hardly budging from a wage-cutting substandard deal which pays less than the [minimum wage], without set rosters, and without any work-life balance,” RAFFWU secretary Josh Cullinan said.

“Despite eighteen meetings across ten weeks, Apple refuses to guarantee minimum conditions – let alone a fair agreement with living wages and secure rosters. Apple workers have been left with no choice but to take serious action – strikes and bans in pursuit of the agreement they deserve,” the Union said.

Yet, Apple has doubled down, and announced it will move to a worker vote on a non-union wage cutting deal on 28th October.

In response, RAFFWU members went on strike for twenty-four hours on Saturday 22nd October. The Union is encouraging all workers to vote no to the sub-standard deal, join RAFFWU, appoint RAFFWU as your bargaining representative, and participate in protected industrial action.

The Australian Apple strikes are a significant escalation in the international unionisation drive at Apple, with workers around the world fighting for fair pay and conditions amid a global cost of living crisis.

This June, Apple workers in Baltimore voted to become the first unionised Apple store in the US. More recently, workers at a store in Oklahoma City voted to become the second. Staff at Apple Glasgow are set to become the UK’s first, having filed for Voluntary Union Recognition in June after joining Scotland’s general workers union.

With a market cap of 2.31 trillion USD, Apple is the world’s most valuable company. In Australia, Apple employs 4,000 retail staff. It is a disgrace that such a large and rich company is able to treat its workers so poorly while raking in record profits.

The first case of nationally co-ordinated industrial action in retail in Australian history is an incredibly important milestone.

RAFFWU, and most importantly the delegates and members at Apple, should be proud of the incredible work that they’ve achieved.

During a global low-wages crisis, they’ve shown workers not just in Australia, but around the world, that we don’t have to just accept what large transnational corporations give us.

Through united struggle and industrial action, workers can challenge employers and win the rights and conditions we deserve.

The Communist Party of Australia encourages all who are financially able to support striking Apple workers to do so by donating to the RAFFWU Welfare Support Fund for Apple Workers.

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