Supermarket workers go on strike: ‘All we want for Xmas is a living wage’

December 19, 2023
RAFFWU members on strike in Meanjin/Brisbane on October 7
Coles and Woolworth workers on strike in Meanjin/Brisbane on October 7. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Workers at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets have ramped up their campaign for a living wage, secure jobs and safe workplaces with a Christmas #Superstrike starting on December 20.

The strikes are being organised by the Retail and Fast Food Workers’ Union (RAFFWU). The follow the first ever national supermarket workers’ strike on October 7 and the Coles workers’ strike in Victoria on November 3.

The strikes kick off at Woolworths Broken Hill in New South Wales, followed by Coles Banksia Grove in Western Australia on December 21 before workers across the country join the strike on December 22.

The strikes will continue until December 25.

RAFFWU said its strike fund will mean that workers taking action will not lose pay.

The union is organising rallies in Boorloo/Perth, Naarm/Melbourne, Gadi/Sydney and Meanjin/Brisbane on December 22 and have called for solidarity.

RAFFWU also called on people to boycott of Coles and Woolworths, starting December 18 until December 25, citing the supermarket duopoly’s record profits.

“From 18 December 2023, anyone who can should do their shopping elsewhere," RAFFWU said.

“Not only do these companies exploit their workers, they exploit us all with their cynical price-gouging. During an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis, Coles and Woolies have made record profits.

“They expect to make even bigger profits at Christmas time, while their own workers can’t afford to shop in their stores.”

Coles and Woolworths made a profit of $1.09 billion and $1.6 billion respectively in the 2022–23 financial year. Together, they control 65% of the grocery market. Their price-gouging during the cost-of-living crisis is a key driver of inflation.

RAFFWU launched legal action against Woolworths on December 4 on behalf of about 1400 overnight workers at more than 100 supermarkets in Victoria and Tasmania.

RAFFWU said that during the pandemic in 2021 these workers were forced to switch from overnight to daytime or evening work with little warning, resulting in huge pay cuts.

“Workers were never consulted by Woolworths over the major change,” RAFFWU said. “When workers disputed roster changes, they were threatened by Woolworths with no pay, sent home and told they must comply with Woolworths’ direction that they work the new rosters.”

RAFFWU alleges that the roster changes were put in place so Woolworths could “avoid paying overnight penalty rates and paid meal breaks to its workers”.

The changes meant workers’ wages were cut by up to $30,000 a year.

[Support the supermarket workers by joining the boycott, signing the open letter and joining solidarity rallies on December 22.]

Rally details

Dec 21, 12pm, Coles Banksia Grove
Dec 22, 12pm, Coles Byford

Dec 22, 1pm, Belmore Park 

Dec 22, 12pm, corner of Elizabeth and Albert St

Dec 22, 1pm, Coles Spencer St

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