The beloved bookstore in Sydney is the unlikely battleground for union strife that could change workplace relationships

“Some customers are angry because their web orders have not been executed and are requesting a refund,” Ms Eatock said. “Other customers are taking their business elsewhere, and writers are being attacked for coming into the store to make book signings. It’s just not fair.”

Ms. Eatock said the company paid premium salaries, employed very few juniors, and she understood that a number of random employees had been offered permanent positions and rejected them.

RAFFWU Secretary Josh Cullinan said store owners risked public support as support for independent bookstores was tied to progressive politics, especially in an area like Newtown.

“This is a bookstore that uses a socialist slogan [better red than dead] in their name, ”Mr Cullinan said. “They trade on a progressive agenda, progressive placement and a progressive customer base.”

Earlier this year, more than 300 authors signed an open letter in Overland magazine supporting union workers, while a welfare fund for staff to help them through the lockdown raised $ 23,000 from the public.

RAFFWU was founded five years ago after a nationwide wage scandal centered on workplace agreements by the conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association with major employers, including Coles, Woolworths and McDonald’s.

RAFFWU organizer Loukas Kakogiannis speaks at the convention in Newtown to support a union promotion at Better Read than Dead.

RAFFWU organizer Loukas Kakogiannis speaks at the convention in Newtown to support a union promotion at Better Read than Dead.Credit:Wolter Peeters

The struggle has broader implications because small businesses employ almost half of Australian workers, but for the most part are non-trade unions. Australia’s labor market system technically gives all workers the right to collectively negotiate the terms of the award through a collective agreement, but the pay and terms of most small employers are set by the price.

Sir. Cullinan said if Better Read employees succeed, it would set a “landmark” cultural precedent for small business unionization.

“For a very long time in Australia, the deals that were made in retail and fast food were for the mega-companies and they were done in a way that did not return value to the workers,” Mr Cullinan said.

“[This action] is very important and it will create a basis for others to do exactly the same. ”

Sir. Cullinan said workers at Melbourne Bookstore Readings, a much larger business, were also trying to organize, and staff at other small retailers, not just bookstores, were closely following the outcome.

A crowd of members of the Newtown community and University of Sydney students came out to support the Better Read than Dead rally.

A crowd of members of the Newtown community and University of Sydney students came out to support the Better Read than Dead rally.Credit:Wolter Peeters

Better Read than Dead employees have been organizing since October last year and first launched combat operations, including a refusal to process web orders, in July. Sir. Cullinan said they reached an agreement in principle on a corporate bargaining agreement in August, but the owners “rejected” that agreement and had hired a law firm to strike back.

Sir. Cullinan said they entered into an agreement that included the reinstatement of fines from before 2017 Sunday, six months of parental leave, measures against bullying and harassment, procedures for converting random staff to permanent staff and a pay rise from $ 22.33 to $ 24.22 USD. one hour.

The retail price sets levels from one to eight based on experience and expertise, but without company negotiations, most retail employees in most companies are paid at the entry level. Better Read employees want to be moved to level 3, with an additional $ 1 on top.

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Better Read co-owner Terry Greer denied that he had rejected any agreement and said the entire story would be sent to the Fair Work Commission, with the first mention scheduled for this Thursday.

“The whole collective bargaining process has resulted in huge costs for a small business,” Mr Greer said. “This has not been helped by the negative media campaign that has been waged by the union, which has a devastating effect on the company struggling to survive after the shutdowns.”

Sir. Greer said Better Read than Dead had three full-time employees, two part-time employees and eight casual employees. Sir. Cullinan said Better Read was a group of companies and he believed there were up to 20 employees in total.

The union also represents a former employee who was allegedly fired for his union organizing efforts, and this will be heard in Federal Circuit Court next year.

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