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Aldi Comes Under Pressure From Unions in Australia

Supermarket giant Aldi who are well known for their specials, is finding it tough to fend off the unions, and is now being forced to reconsider its non-union pay deals.

This week, hundreds of workers voted “no” in a ballot for Aldi’s proposed enterprise agreement in South Australia, reported the Australian Financial Review.

Enterprise agreements are legal documents between employers and employees that set out minimum employment terms and conditions.

The “no” vote was a win for the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) which campaigned against the deal across the state’s 50 stores.

Aldi has managed to avoid making deals with the SDA for at least 15 years, though that may now be forced to change that policy given the growing influence of the SDA in its latest campaign. The SDA has demanded Aldi return to the negotiating table.

An Aldi spokesman said that it is “seeking feedback from our South Australian team members and are committed to working together to reach a new enterprise agreement.”

“Aldi has continuously treated its workforce with contempt,” said SDA South Australia secretary Josh Peak. “They’ve underpaid workers millions of dollars and tried to undercut their conditions, and now they are paying the price for their actions.”

Meanwhile, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has also launched a campaign to compel Aldi to negotiate a national transport driver agreement and establish a charter of conditions for its supply chain.

 

The union has threatened to use Labor’s new road transport laws to mandate rates and conditions for Aldi truck drivers if the company refuses to negotiate.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said: “Aldi has been running roughshod over its workforce for years, making phoney greenfields deals and pitting one workgroup against others to minimise costs and accountability”.

“This breakthrough vote marks a significant turning point. The laws of Australia have changed in [the] workers’ favour. Aldi must follow.”

The SDA has also challenged a clause in Aldi’s new Victorian agreement that the union claims breaches Labor’s same job, same pay laws by seeking to pay labour hire casuals less than the company’s permanent workforce. It has called on the Fair Work Commission to overturn Aldi’s Victorian deal over a clause that says that if the commission orders labour hire workers to get paid at least the same as the direct workforce, the agreement’s casual rates apply. Although Aldi does not directly employ casuals, its agreement sets out casual warehouse rates up to A$5 an hour less than rates for a permanent employee. The commission hasn’t yet ruled on the matter.

The SDA has more than tripled its membership at Aldi since launching a A$150 million underpayment class action against the company last year alleging that it requires staff to work unpaid up to 30 minutes before their shift.

SDA South Australia secretary Josh Peak said Aldi workers were joining the union “en masse” and their rejection of the non-union agreement was globally significant. The German-headquartered Aldi is largely non-unionised around the world.



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