Woolworths workers reportedly pushes for wage increases of $2 an hour

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A Woolworths sign adorns the front of a supermarket store in Sydney August 28, 2013.
A Woolworths sign adorns the front of a supermarket store in Sydney August 28, 2013. Reuters/David Gray

Woolworths is reportedly dealing with an industrial strife, with approximately 2,000 workers to potentially go on strike over job security and pay. Possible strikes are expected to cause the most disruption in Victoria.

Workers are pushing for salary increases of $2 an hour, per year. They also want job security, more full-time work, and greater redundancy pay-outs.

Last week, the National Union of Workers applied to the Fair Work Commission to win the right to take industrial action at centres in Victoria and also in New South Wales. Victoria has warehouses at Broadmeadows, Laverton and Wodonga.

Protected Action Ballots

Dario Mujkic​, the union's industrial officer, said that discussions over new workplace agreements had stalled. "Primarily, our members want a fair share of their employer's profits, and job security now and into the future," he said, adding this was not unusual as these are two of the most important issues for NUW members across Australia.

He also warned that if strikes went ahead, it would be the largest industrial action involving the union for some years. Industrial action, specifically in the private sector, has become increasingly rare.

A union spokeswoman confirmed to AAP on Sunday that workers at four Woolworths distribution centres have applied for Protected Action Ballots. Staff at the centres is expected to vote on whether they will agree to go on strike.

Julie Kamber​, a delegate from the Hume distribution centre, admitted that her site faced further uncertainty as it will close. The site currently employs 700 workers.

The Hume distribution centre in Broadmeadows will be replaced by a site in Melbourne's east. The new site will reportedly hire fewer workers because of greater use of automation. Hume site closure is another blow to Broadmeadows, which has suffered from the closure of the car industry.

Based on a recent federal government data, unemployment in the suburb is the highest in the state at 25.3 percent. According to the Bureau of Statistics, per 1,000 employees, working days lost has more than halved compared to five years ago.

Meanwhile, a Woolworths spokesman said they will continue to work with team members and their representatives to achieve the right outcome at all sites, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The spokesman did not comment directly on the union claims or the possible effect on its supermarkets, but maintained that the company’s main priority will still be its team members and the service to its customers.

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