Aldi Wants To Reintroduce Serfdom For Its Workers, Says Union
Release date: 15/04/2015
Labor Party national vice-president Tony Sheldon has accused German discount grocery chain Aldi of wanting to treat its workers like serfs.
By Ewin Hannan, 15 April 2015
Aldi is seeking to revive a contentious attempt to have more legal power to have its employees work more than 38 hours each week.
The Fair Work Commission has previously rejected the company's bid to strike agreements with new employees guaranteeing them working more than 38 hours each week.
In a submission to the Productivity Commission, Aldi argues that employees want to have guaranteed additional hours. It says workers prefer this arrangement to the current legal provisions that state employees work a limit of 38 hours a week and additional hours where needed.
Mr Sheldon, the national secretary of the Transport Workers Union, said on Tuesday that workers were entitled to challenge "bad" workplace agreements. "Major retailers like Aldi are trying to turn the clocks back on our modern society to reintroduce serfdom," he said.
"Their model is to keep workers employed on vulnerable part-time and casual basis, increasing and reducing their hours when they see fit."
The TWU took action against Aldi in 2012 when it "tried to strip workers of their right to refuse to work unreasonably long hours", Mr Sheldon said.
"Aldi then failed the legal and fairness test but, now in a submission to the Productivity Commission, it is seeking to again scrap the same safeguards," he said.
"We can only hope that Aldi's dream for the Australian economy never comes true."
The German discount grocery store chain, which has been credited with improving competition in the supermarket industry, found as it expanded in Australia that unions disrupted its operations by complaining to the Fair Work Commission about workplace agreements that most staff wanted.
Based on its experience in Australia, the company said the time taken by the commission to consider enterprise agreements approved by its employees "can be unduly prolonged, costly and disruptive to continuing business operations".
"This is not acceptable in a modern, flexible economy," Aldi told the Productivity Commission.
Aldi has grown rapidly since entering Australia in 2000 and now employs 8500 workers in 367 stores and five distribution centres along the eastern seaboard.
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