First Union general secretary Robert Reid says though Unite was successful with McDonald’s, the issue of low hours being given to retail workers remains.
“Low contracted hours are just as common as zero hours and just as unfair and exploitative,” says Reid.
“When new hours become available retail employers often opt for new workers who are then put on low hours as well.”
He says the union will be entering negotiations with major retail chains this year to win secure and predictable hours.
First Union currently represents retail workers from Bunnings, Countdown and Woolworths, Pak’n Save, The Warehouse and Kmart.
Reid says existing agreements in place with retailers prevent zero hour contracts, but recent changes to laws by the government mean loopholes have arisen.
The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 came into effect on 6 March 2015.
The law removes the right of non-unionised new employees to enjoy the unions’ collective agreements for the first 30 days following their starting date.
This means new employees who aren’t part of a union have to negotiate an individual agreement instead.
Reid says this creates an opportunity for employers to exploit zero hour contracts and one company may have already taken advantage of it.
“First Union is investigating reports that one major retail chain has used this new law to offer zero hour contracts at a new site where the collective agreement implicitly precludes such provisions,” he says.