Tue, 12 Mar, 2019Joanita Wibowo

Chemist Warehouse workers go on indefinite strike

Chemist Warehouse workers go on indefinite strike

Employees at Chemist Warehouse's distribution centre have launched an indefinite strike over their wages and conditions.

About 100 staff across Victoria and Queensland participated in the strike today to demand higher pay, better job security and “an end to the toxic culture of bullying and harassment”.

“This is a David and Goliath struggle,” said Tim Kennedy, national secretary at the National Union of Workers (NUW).

“It is a struggle between haves and have-nots. Worker’s wages are declining while wealth and power continues to grow at the top end of town.”

Kennedy said it is a “matter of justice” for the company, which brands itself as “Australia’s Cheapest Chemist”, to treat their workers with respect and meet the industry standard.

According to the union, the company currently pays its workers 25 per cent lower than competitors. Apart from salary increase, the workers are also looking to increase the proportion of permanent staff from 25 per cent to 70 per cent, Pharmacy News reported.

On Thursday, a day before the International Women’s Day, NUW members also occupied Chemist Warehouse stores to protest “the ongoing sexual harassment of our sisters working in Chemist Warehouse distribution centres”.

Staff also called for more respectful treatment. 

“Labour hire casuals are treated as disposable machines, not like people,” the union said. “Often they are expected to wait on unpaid standby without any guarantee of their next shift.

“Chemist Warehouse could provide people with decent, safe and secure jobs – but they choose not to.”

The pharmacy is not the only Australian company dealing with strike action today. Telstra is facing a nationwide strike until 11.59 pm tonight over wage increases.

The strike will affect NBN and broadband installation, as well as phone and mobile service maintenance, Communications Electrical Plumbing Union (CEPU) state secretary Shane Murphy told It will not impact the Triple Zero service.

The telco giant is offering workers a 4.5 per cent pay increase over three years, but unions argue that it is well below inflation rates. The Australian Trade Council of Unions (ACTU) described the offer as “effectively a pay cut”.

“It is disgraceful Telstra is offering a real wage cut while their top six executives collectively take home what would take the average Telstra worker 200 years to earn,” said ACTU secretary Sally McManus.