The Guardian June 2, 1999


Woolies unfair to workers

Sausages sizzled as protesters turned up the heat on Woolworths' city 
store in Sydney last Thursday. As unionists prepared the BBQ in front of 
Woolworths' main entrance, protesters worked up an appetite by marching 
throughout the store with placards and megaphones, shouting "Woolies unfair 
to workers" and "Don't shop at Woolies".

The protest attracted a lot of attention from the early-evening crowds of 
shoppers. In every isle of the store, customers were reading leaflets about 
how 30 workers had been unfairly sacked and replaced by casual labour.

Outside the store the picket had grown in size and protesters were now 
linking arms, forming a barrier around the store's entrances. Thirty 
workers were sacked on May 14 by a company that does shopfitting and 
joinery work for Woolworths Supermarkets.

The company, Metro Shopfitting, sacked the 30 workers, saying there was "no 
longer work available for them".

The next day they were replaced by casual workers employed by a body hire 
agency on lower rates of pay. Security guards were put on the front door of 
the factory to stop the sacked workers from gaining entry to their 
workplace.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has made 
representation to Woolworths and, on behalf of the sacked workers, has 
requested Woolworths ensure that they only do business with companies that 
treat their workers fairly.

Woolworths management told the media that the dispute had nothing to do 
with Woolworths. This claim is becoming more common and is one of the 
points the protest was drawing attention to: through the use of 
contractors, sub-contractors and body-hire companies, employers are 
claiming they are not responsible for what happens to workers.

The CFMEU said Woolworths have an obligation not only to their direct 
employees and customers but also the employees of companies they engage to 
do business with.

Customers should support the campaign for a fair go for workers and not 
support Woolies until this problem is fixed.

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