Victory for Radio Rentals workers


Technicians employed by Radio Rentals who were locked out of work for a month have returned to work after the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the company agreed on an enterprise agreement that was better than Radio Rentals' original offer.

Radio Rentals had wanted to put the workers, who had been on a collective agreement, onto individual contracts. When the workers protested by taking protected industrial action on September 7, management responded by locking them out and withholding their wages.

The workers were told that they would be allowed to return to work only if they signed an Australian Workplace Agreement. However, buoyed by strong public support, the workers stood their ground and demanded a collective agreement, a 4% pay rise and the reinstatement of decent redundancy conditions.

The four-week community protest outside the Radio Rentals store in Prospect was located on one of Adelaide's busiest thoroughfares and received a huge amount of support. Thousands of dollars in donations were given to the locked-out workers, and the community support and active solidarity from other unions gave the workers extra strength to defy the attack on their rights.

Radio Rentals management agreed to negotiate with the AMWU national leaders on the condition that the protest outside the store be removed.

The workers have won a collective agreement and a 4% pay rise, although the pay rise will be linked to workers meeting "key performance indicators". The redundancy provisions have been enhanced, but are capped at 52 weeks. The union is not able to release other details of the agreement because the company has insisted on confidentiality.

A positive outcome of the dispute was that the successful galvanising of public support made the need for strong, fighting unions clear. The union and community campaign put Radio Rentals under enormous pressure. The company lost business because many customers boycotted the store; it was hit where it hurts.

Public anger towards Radio Rentals still lingers, and some have said that business at the company's stores is noticeably slower. SA Unions secretary Janet Giles released a media statement saying, "We now urge people to go back to shop at the Radio Rentals stores. Everyone who works there wants to now get on with their jobs and provide continued excellent customer service."