More than 275 Officeworks distribution centre workers, members of the United Workers Union (UWU), stopped work for 24 hours on August 24 at three sites: North Rocks and Yennora in NSW and Laverton in Victoria.
Worried about their jobs being outsourced, and having inferior wages and conditions, they took the action which affected the replenishment of stock in Officeworks stores in three warehouses.
Officeworks is offering “sub-inflation wage increases” with cuts to overtime penalties and no protection for future job security, according to UWU. At the same time, it is recording record “pandemic profits” with an increase in sales.
Officeworks distribution centre workers are considered “essential workers” and have therefore continued to work, even while the company recorded three positive COVID-19 cases in distribution centres.
UWU director of logistics Matt Toner said on August 18 that Officeworks’ negligible pay offer was “unacceptable” when the company is refusing to ensure that its workers’ wages and conditions would not be undercut by permanent jobs being made casual.
“The managing director for Wesfarmers, the parent company of Officeworks, thinks it’s okay to increase his salary by 7.8% in one year. It’s time that workers, who are actually essential, get the big pay increases in line with the contributions they make.”
Toner said that “business is booming for Officeworks”, pointing to an increase in profits of 41.5% between 2015 and 2019, to reach $167 million.
He said that the rise in company profits during the pandemic would not have been possible without the workers’ dedication to their jobs.
“Since the company shifted to focus on online sales, the warehouse and logistics workers have been working harder than ever.
“We are seeking a wage increase and job security assurances that reflect the commitment workers have shown to Officeworks and the contributions they have made over the years.”
The UWU is campaigning for a 12% pay rise over three years; for casual workers to become permanent after six months as well as those on labour hire; and protection for workers if Officeworks outsources its work to another logistics company, such as Toll or DHL.
So far, Officeworks has offered a 6% wage rise over three years; management rights to change shift changes; a reduction in penalty rates; no protection for outsourcing; and no solid commitment over casual conversion.
The company is pushing ahead with a vote on its offer. But UWU delegates have said they will be campaigning to vote the management offer down.
More industrial action will be considered in the coming weeks.