Union’s bookshop pay deal puts small business on notice

In contrast, Cullinan said the union campaign had restored morale at the bookshop “after years of decline”.

The RAFFWU is also in the final stages of negotiation with Readings, a medium-sized book store in Melbourne, he said. “We are working with members in many other small, medium and large businesses to unionize and negotiate agreements.”


Small businesses employ nearly half of Australian workers but are mostly non-unionised, with pay and conditions generally set by the award.

The Council of Small Business Organizations Australia chief executive Alexi Boyd said workers joining unions was “not something our members have raised as a concern”.

“Ultimately small businesses want to take care of workers,” she said.

Boyd said small business owners found it hard to navigate the award system. “What is better for small business is simplicity which will ultimately improve compliance.”

Cullinan said small businesses had “nothing to fear” from workers unionizing and negotiating enterprise agreements.

With a tight labor market, Cullinan said an employer with superior conditions will often attract employees.

“For an employer which markets itself on the basis of a progressiveness there is an implicit benefit in actually providing enforceable progressive and sector leading conditions to workers,” he said.

The agreement between the union and Better Read comes as Australia’s retail and hospitality peak bodies joined medical experts and the union movement in calling on the federal government to reintroduce a COVID sick-leave safety net as cases arise.


The RAFFWU was founded in 2016 following a nationwide wages scandal centered on workplace agreements by the conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association with large employers including Coles, Woolworths and McDonald’s.

Cullinan said the “shoppies” union was for the bosses, while the RAFFWU was for workers.

“SDA sought to negotiate wage stripping agreements with small and medium businesses in an attempt to replicate what it had achieved with large businesses,” he said.

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