Woolworths faces lawsuit over pandemic-era roster changes

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Woolworths faces lawsuit over pandemic-era roster changes
Credit: © Reuters.

MELBOURNE - The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) has taken legal steps against Australian supermarket giant Woolworths, claiming the company unlawfully changed work schedules and threatened over 1400 employees with non-payment during the pandemic. The union alleges that workers were coerced into accepting new rosters that led to significant wage cuts due to the elimination of overnight restocking shifts.

The dispute centers on a decision made in April 2021, when overnight workers in over a hundred Woolworths stores across Victoria and Tasmania were told that their usual overnight grocery restocking shifts would be discontinued. Instead, a new schedule was introduced with hours from 7pm to 11pm, which resulted in employees losing penalty rates and paid meal breaks, leading to reduced earnings.

RAFFWU secretary Josh Cullinan has been vocal about the abrupt nature of these changes, accusing Woolworths of engaging in unlawful coercion. He pointed out that some full-time staff saw their annual pay decrease by as much as $30,000 due to the new scheduling. The union's legal challenge has been bolstered by the support of two former employees who have experienced these changes firsthand.

In addition to seeking fair compensation for the affected workers, RAFFWU criticized Woolworths for denying a union support person during discussions about the roster modifications. Specific instances of employee discontent include Peter Lawson from Thrift Park voicing his disagreement with the new timetable on June 18, and Lauren Dyer from Lilydale store being subject to revised rosters enforced prior to dispute resolution on July 19.

The Federal Court lawsuit filed by RAFFWU aims to address these issues by demanding adequate consultation for roster changes and proper compensation for wage cuts suffered by staff.

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