Mr Cullinan said the information Big W gave workers about the new EBA did not mention the removal of the provision, and RAFFWU would use that to challenge the EBA’s approval when it goes in front of the Fair Work Commission for approval in the coming weeks.
The commission could send Big W, RAFFWU and its larger union rival the Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees’ Association back to the negotiating table, where Mr Cullinan said RAFFWU would push for higher pay and better conditions in the EBA.
SDA material about the EBA circulated to employees mentions the changes to the job security clause. But Big W would not provide the material that it gave to workers.
A Big W spokesman said the terms of the new EBA were clearly communicated to workers, and it was surprised to hear RAFFWU’s concerns, which had not been raised during bargaining.
The new EBA had higher redundancy payments than the national standard (up to 12.5 weeks pay versus seven weeks for an employee with three years service), the spokesman said.
“The majority of our store network is set to remain open and we’ll work closely with affected team members to explore redeployment opportunities across the Woolworths Group wherever possible,” he said.
As it stands, the EBA restores penalty rates, casual loading and other conditions that had been stripped out of previous EBAs negotiated with the SDA. The “shoppies’ union” said the new deal was a “significant improvement”.
Big W’s is the latest in a string a major retailers to restore those conditions to their EBAs following a landmark FWC ruling in 2016 established that the agreements cannot leave any workers worse off than they would be under the minimum award wage.
Woolworths has not revealed which of its 180 stores it intends to close but said it had targeted those with the lowest sales and highest rent per square metre.
Big W has been a problem child for Woolworths for several years, thumped by the runway success of rival Kmart and dragging on the group’s earnings even as its core supermarket business returned to growth.
The business ran at a $110 million loss last year, and Woolworths expects it to lose up to $100 million this year.