Australia: Interview with Gerry Carr – Workplace Relations Manager at Woolworths Limited
Last Updated: 21 February 2011

Recently, the Woolworths National Supermarket Agreement was approved by Fair Work Australia. We spoke to Gerry Carr about his role in the negotiations and the Agreement generally.

What is your role with the Agreement?

As the Workplace Relations Manager for Woolworths Limited / Supermarkets I negotiated the Agreement and arranged for its approval.

Why was the recent negotiation and approval of the Woolworths National Supermarket Agreement such an achievement for Woolworths?

The new agreement replaced eight other separate agreements with a number of different unions that had been in place for the last 12 years. On top of that it is a ‘four walls’ agreement meaning that it covers all supermarket non salaried employees working in a supermarket – from shop assistants to butchers and bakers – it’s a comprehensive document. It has a standardised penalty and rostering system across the board. With the loading up of ordinary rates of pay, the only time when we are generally paying penalty rates is on Sundays and early mornings.

To do something like that sounds fairly complex.

It was complex – especially to make an agreement that covered so many different classifications. In all, over 100,000 employees are now covered by this one single agreement.

What kind of pay increases did you agree to?

The agreement provides for a 3.5% per annum wage increase as well as common leave provisions. It also delivers a pay boost to younger workers – 20 year olds under the agreement receiving 100% of the current adult rate (up from 90%).

Are there any other non-pay related changes that you made?

We increased compassionate leave from three days to four and we reduced the hours required to be worked in order to access rest breaks for some employees, such as those in NSW. On top of that we’ve increased the unpaid parental leave to two years. Plus we have a new clause whereby casuals and part timers can agree to work extra hours over and above ordinary hours at ordinary time rates at peak periods such as Christmas and Easter. Usually overtime rates kick in at 38 hours a week or 9 hours per day.

How long did it take to negotiate? What is its nominal term?

It took over 12 months of negotiation with the four separate unions before we finally reached agreement. The agreement’s nominal expiry date is 30 June 2012.

What kind of hurdles did you encounter along the way?

At one point the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) made an application for a scope order to try to exclude butchers from the agreement. However, that Scope order bid failed. The AMIEU are now signatories to the agreement.

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