Dec 7, 2016

All over the Shoppies

Everyone, from workers to politicians, have had a gutful of the Shoppies union, writes Labor insider Ben Chiefly.

In an era of low union membership numbers, it comes as a surprise to many labour movement insiders that a new union has burst onto the scene, the Retail and Fast Food Workers UnionIt poses an existential threat to the increasingly infamous and under-pressure, hard-right Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (SDA) or "Shoppies". 

Unions affiliated to the Labor Party wield their internal power by way of the size of their rank-and-file membership. The Labor Right-aligned SDA as the union of retail workers is the largest national union and has almost 250,000 members. As a result of the weight of these numbers, they are well represented in terms of delegates on state and territory party conference floors all over the country, particularly the national conference.

These numbers have ensured the SDA have been for decades able to control the Right's policy positions on pet issues such as blocking marriage equality, euthanasia and abortion at a branch and national level, and therefore the party's positions on these issues. It's been considered something of a secretive paranoid reactionary Catholic cult since the days when Tony Abbott used to socialise with SDA stalwarts Joe de Bruyn and former senator Joe Bullock.

The Shoppies have been constraining prime ministers since the days of Gough Whitlam. The newly re-elected SDA-aligned senator from South Australia, Don "The Godfather" Farrell, was central to Kevin Rudd being dumped as prime minister in 2010. At least 12 members of federal Parliament are believed to owe their positions to the SDA, and that tends to engender loyalty. 

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5 thoughts on “All over the Shoppies

  1. max moller

    Same as LHMU especially in Queensland. They are in the bosses pocket. The Security Providers award is an example. It now has just about all the bad parts of all the old state awards without even a wimper out of the Union let alone fighting for workers rights. They are not doing anything about illegal shame contracting which is rife in the Security Industry in Queensland even in the Security contractor for Queensland Rail .

  2. Dog's Breakfast

    “Unions affiliated to the Labor Party wield their internal power by way of the size of their rank-and-file membership.”

    That is Labor’s problem in a nutshell. The connection between unions and the number of delegates at conferences has to be shelved by Labor. Either trade unions can support them or not, financially or otherwise, but having power blocs has to be brought undone.

    Say what you will about the CFMEU and thuggery, at least they tend to represent the workers, and tend to get pretty good deals for them.

    Health Services and the Shoppies could do with a CFMEU.

  3. Claudia

    I worked for an independent supermarket chain that just went by the award. I have seen the pay rates of Coles and Woolies EBA and workers chatting online and it was obvious who had the better deal. I’m also baffled as to why the SDA think they can be my moral guide. I want a union to protect my pay and conditions not advocate about social policies. I was baffled to read about SDA’s social crusades and I have no idea what that had to do with me.

  4. Northy

    It’s brilliant news that this new union has been formed and I wish them lots of success. Hopefully plenty of retail and food workers will sign up to a union that actually looks out for their best interests.

  5. Steve Cornelius

    The above description of who runs the Labor Party shows precisely why I would never consider joining the Labor Party.

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