Shoppers at supermarkets across the country could be left wanting over the weekend, as hundreds of staff prepare to walk off the job in the first-ever nationwide strike.
Employees represented by the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union will stop work from 10am on Saturday for two hours at stores in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the ACT.
The strike, the first of its kind on a nationwide level in Australia, will impact both Coles and Woolworths stores and comes amid growing criticism of the two grocery chains.
As many as 1000 RAFFWU members are expected to take part, with federal secretary Josh Cullinan stating staff were fighting for higher wages, safer workplaces and secure jobs.
“Workers are paid a few cents more than the minimum wage,” he told Nine News.
“They just want a living wage to deal with the rising cost of living.
“They can‘t even afford the groceries they’re selling.”
Mr Cullinan said also he wanted casual employees to get ongoing jobs and for action to be taken on violence in stores.
“They (staff) just want to be able to have more hours in their contract to rely on,” Mr Cullinan said.
“Mega companies making mega profits should be able to provide that.
“We also want to see each time a worker is assaulted or abused to be treated like a crime.
“The level of abuse, threats intimidation and assaults is unprecedented and outrageous.
“The employers are not lifting a finger to stop it.”
Industrial action is also scheduled to take place at stores on Friday, sparking allegations of retaliation.
The RAFFWU claimed Coles said it would stand down every worker who implemented the stop-work ban.
“Coles pays poverty wages then threatens to take even those meagre wages away from any worker who dares to stand up,” the RAFFWU said.
“To avoid doubt, workers are not paid for striking and workers at Coles engaging in bans on Friday, 6 October will not be paid by Coles.
“Refusing to pay workers while they ban limited work is a choice by Coles in its ruthless exploitation of workers.
“Woolworths has not made the same choice and is not currently refusing to pay workers implementing bans.”
The list of impacted stores is not known, with striking employees ordered to rally at certain points, including:
Melbourne – Coles Spencer St (near Southern Cross Station)
Gippsland – Coles Traralgon Central
Sydney – Belmore Park, Eddy Ave entrance, Haymarket (near Central Station)
Broken Hill – Woolworths Broken Hill
Brisbane – outside Myer Centre McDonald’s at corner of Elizabeth and Albert streets
Northern Brisbane – Woolworths Narangba
Charters Towers – Woolworths Charters Towers
Gladstone – Coles Gladstone
Perth – Coles Byford
Australian Capital Territory
Canberra – Coles Tuggeranong
Adelaide – Woolworths Aberfoyle Park
To be confirmed
In a statement, a Coles spokesperson said they did not expect any disruption to customers from the strike.
“We remain committed to negotiating a fair and balanced agreement for all,” the spokesperson said.
“Coles continues to provide above-award conditions under our current enterprise agreement.
“We passed on the Fair Work Commission’s annual wage increase to our supermarket team members in July.”
Woolworths, meanwhile, said only 300 of its 132,000 staff were expected to take part in the walk-off.
A supermarket spokesperson said initial bargaining agreements with the RAFFWU had occurred.
“We have a long history of bargaining in good faith with our team and will continue to do so,” they said.
“However, we acknowledge and respect the right of team members to take protected industrial action.
“Only individuals who have appointed RAFFWU as their bargaining representative are able to participate.
“As a result, we would not expect customers or our stores to be materially impacted. “
The spokesperson said Woolworths had also “passed on” a 5.75 per cent wage increase.