A successful action was held in the Melbourne CBD yesterday in solidarity with the 500+ locked out distribution workers in New Zealand. The workers are employed by a company called Progressive Enterprises which is owned by Woolworths Australia.
They have been locked out until they drop their demand for a collective union agreement. They are fighting for decent pay rises and pay parity across three New Zealand distribution centers.
UNITE, the fighting union for fast food and retail workers in Victoria, organised the action outside the QV centre, which is one of Melbourne’s busiest shopping centers. QV is home to both Big W and Safeway which are also owned by Woolworths.
UNITE was joined by members from several other unions and community groups, this included the ETU apprentice committee who closed their meeting to attend the action. Delegations were also sent from other unions like the CWU, MUA and AMWU. Several other groups also participated including the IWW, YUN and several socialist groups including SP.
During the two hour action over 2000 leaflets were distributed to shoppers and hundreds of names were collected on a petition of support. The city corner was also plastered with posters attacking Woolworths union busting activities.
UNITE was calling on shoppers to consider not shopping at Woolworths outlets whilst they are treating their workers in this way. Not that consumer boycotts can be a replacement for workers organisation and action, but actions like this can play a useful auxiliary role to industrial action.
UNITE supports the idea of direct solidarity action including solidarity strikes. Union activists in Australia will continue to keep the pressure on Woolworths by organising more actions of this character in the next period.