The Guardian 27 April, 2005

AWAs dumped

Storemen at a Sydney firm have scored a shorter working week for the same pay after tearing up their individual contracts and demanding the right to strike a collective agreement.

The 150 workers dumped the Federal Government inspired Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) after a year of activism and negotiation by the near universal union membership.

Under the new deal workers at State Warehousing and Distribution Services (SWADS), have had weekly working hours cut from 50 hours to 40.

The AWAs had been in place for seven years, but as membership at the warehouse grew so did the pressure for a collective agreement.

The new agreement provides workers at warehouse sites across NSW with five weeks annual leave, increased sick leave and has converted many from casual to full time employees.

Overtime rates have also been increased with double time on Sundays and after two hours on time and a half.

National Union of Workers (NUW) organiser Justin Cody said union delegates on site deserve full credit for keeping interest high and providing information to members.

“We provided the comparison to other storemen and what they were losing under the AWAs compared to the award and they took it up from there”, he said. “After seven years of AWAs they’d had enough.”

NUW State Secretary Derrick Belan says that though the union movement faces uncertain and testing times the NUW’s success at SWADS reinforces the importance of strength and resilience.

“The lessons of solidarity and determination backed with the willingness to pro-actively support our members, whatever the challenge, are the things that will see us outlive any conservative political regime or agenda.”

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