Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spotlight embraces pragmatic necessity

Australian discount craft store Spotlight, which last year decided to employ all new staff under an Australian Workplace Agreement which forced them to trade away penalty payments, overtime and other benefits in exchange for a pay rise of just two cents an hour, has now decided to abandon AWA's in favour of a union collective agreement.

It turns out these AWA's didn't meet the federal government's so-called fairness test (which has more than a few holes in it) that was introduced after an election-threatening public outcry over the new workplace laws which allowed such exploitation. After Spotlight was advised that 460 AWAs were being rejected by the federal government's Workplace Austhority, they decided it made better business sense to negotiate a collective agreement with the employee's union.

No news yet on what's going to happen to those poor sods who signed AWAs prior to the Fairness Test coming in.

"It's our intention to clean up this industrial issue and really move into a more secure future with our employees," Spotlight chief executive Stephen Carter told ABC radio.

"The advice we've had at this stage (is that) some of the (pay) rates have been insufficient.

You could say that again!

I have deliberately avoided shopping at Spotlight ever since the news broke of their attempts to exploit already badly paid staff. And it's good to know that I can now return to shop there with a slightly clearer conscience. But I am not sure that I will.

The company's attitude towards staff (get the cheapest we can get away with) is representative of the sort of products they are now stocking. Australian-made brands have been abandoned in favour of poorer-quality items from China and other Asian countries (which hardly have a good track record when it comes to employee relations). The last time I went there (over a year ago) I was struck by how much novelty yarn there was and how little pure wool. And when you considered the quality of what was on offer, it really wasn't that cheap anyway.

Maybe it is just part of me growing up, trying to de-crap my yarn stash and wardrobe and house and life, but I am at the stage where I really want quality over quantity and substance over style. And I really don't think Spotlight can meet my needs in that area.

No comments: