It may have been intended as a simple goodwill gesture. But instead a "recognition payment" offered to Woolworths staff who have put in extra hours during the COVID-19 restrictions has stirred resentment among casuals.
One of those to speak out was long-term worker Jo Hardy. She has been at Big W, which is part of the Woolworths group, for almost 19 years. Formerly a contracted employee, Ms Hardy, who is also qualified as a nurse, moved to casual work at Big W as the flexibility suited family life better. She said she felt she had to help out when she was asked to fill in.
"I have been there a really long time - they were really struggling for staff," said Ms Hardy, who works at the Big W store in Ballarat Central.
"It was as busy as it was at Christmas. I felt obliged to help out - I know how hard it is when you don't have enough people and I felt like I was helping the team."
"I didn't expect a bonus - I didn't work for that, I did it for my colleagues."
However when the details of the offer were announced, she said she was struck by its unfairness.
While full and part-time employees were granted $250 on their plus card (an employee benefits card), and up to $750 in share options (pro-rata for part-timers), Ms Hardy and fellow casual workers only received $100 on their plus card.
If there was going to be a payment, it needed to be fairJo Hardy, Big W casual worker
A similar recognition payment negotiated for those working at Coles saw casual workers receive $200, compared to $500 for full-time employees and $250 for part-timers.
Ms Hardy was at pains to say that she had no issue with Woolworths. She said it was the deal struck on behalf of casual workers by the SDA union, which represents workers in the retail, fast food and warehouse sectors, that concerned her.
"We're annoyed with SDA because they agreed to it," she said. "If there was going to be a payment, it needed to be fair."
She believes that the company's casual staff - which comprises around a quarter of the total workforce - disproportionately worked the extra hours to cover the rush as concerns about the pandemic mounted.
A number of casual members believe they should receive a benefit that more closely aligns with part time membersSDA Union
Ms Hardy, who is a single parent of three children aged four, six and 12, said the work she took on meant her father had to come out to look after the children as they were not at school. "It wasn't easy for me to do," she said. "But I love my job, I love my store, I love the people I work with."
A Woolworths spokesperson said the company had been "careful to extend rewards to as many parts of our large workforce as possible."
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The SDA Victorian Branch Secretary Michael Donovan said in response to inquiries from The Courier that it was "positive" that Woolworths had recognised the contribution of their staff.
"However, we have been approached by a number of casual members who believe that they should receive a benefit that more closely aligns with what part-time members are receiving," he said. "We are approaching the company to discuss this matter."
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