A group of Richmond Pak’nSave employees are lobbying for a living wage and more sick leave after working through alert level 4 and 3 lockdowns as essential workers.
Pak’nSave employee and union delegate Jenny Wells has worked at the Richmond supermarket for nearly 20 years.
“In the time I’ve worked at Pak’nSave there have been times that I’ve had to go and get a food grant when my children were at home, because the wages just weren’t enough to live on.”
Jenny and other union members from Pak’nSave are seeking a collective agreement, to get a payrate of the living wage, recognition for long service, and more than 5 sick days a year.
Last year, Countdown supermarkets across the country agreed to pay employees who have spent more than 12 months working for the company a living wage, meaning that around 15,000 employees will see their pay jump from $18.90 per hour to $21.15 an hour.
With the increase coming into effect for Countdown employees next month, Jenny and her other workers have been lobbying for a living wage, but their struggle isn’t new.
It has been a long fight. When they first started lobbying in 2015, they were told that the deal they were getting was industry standard.
“Every few months we had a meeting to see if anybody has changed their stance, and they never have,” Jenny says.
“When the government changed, we got some things we wanted, like having payscales in your contract.”
“We just can’t get a decision out of a meeting because the owner has stopped showing up, he just sends delegates,” says Jenny.
“People are frustrated because the owner isn’t even taking enough interest in these concerns to bother showing up, even though he is the decision maker, says FIRST Union organiser Ross Lampert.
Pam Talbot says that supermarket workers have been on the front lines throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
“People get right up close to you, and it’s not entirely safe.”
“If Covid comes to our community, we feel that we are going to get it as essential workers,” says Jenny.
Jenny and her fellow workers feel that essential workers deserve essential pay.
“You kept hearing in lockdown ‘If you go out you’re going to get sick,’ but we had to go out to work, and it was really uncomfortable hearing that message and knowing that you had to go out.”
Bargaining is currently ongoing, and employees are waiting for an offer from their employer.
“We just want to be acknowledged as people, and we want to earn enough to support our families,” Jenny says.
Pak’n’Save was reached for comment but none was given before publishing.