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  Issue No 85 Official Organ of LaborNet 23 February 2001  

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Organising

The Battle of Campsie


SDA delegate Maria Kavaratzis recounts how the Campsie Big W has been transformed into a union shop.

 
 

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My name is Maria Kavaratzis and I have been asked to come here today to give you my story. Employed by Big W Campsie, I am one of six delegates for the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, otherwise known as the SDA, the union for the retail industry.

It will be a year in March since I became a union delegate in Big W Campsie. It was March of 2000 when things in Campsie took a drastic turn . . . Big W Campsie had one of the lowest Union membership figures in the state. . . In March of 2000 it was an appalling 40%. Something needed to be done and something was done. . .

The SDA, with Tony Burke, the area organiser, worked with the existing two delegates in the store, and together it was made clear to them that Big W employees needed to be represented whether they were full time, part time, casual or nightfill. The store needed to have SDA representatives at every shift offered.

What we realised was that there was minimal contact between casuals and the union. Most casuals were on short shifts. Anytime the organiser would visit he would at best see 10 or 20 of us. Yet there are over 120 casuals at the store. What we needed was co-workers promoting the union every day, on the ground.

But lets go back to the beginning...

I was approached in the store one day by both of the existing delegates, and as asked if I would be interested in becoming one of the... without hesitation the answer was YES, a similar scenario took place with the other two delegates, Poppi Kavaratzis and Denis Prado... A meeting was organised with Tony Burke, the union organiser where we were all present. The great thing about our delegate team in Big W Campsie is that we are all very passionate individuals and as you will see it is our passion that made our impossible mission ... possible.

That meeting was the beginning of the end for low membership figures, and un unknown union amongst many employees and management I might add, of Big Campsie. We were "on a mission" ... with the first of many great achievements attained just two weeks after that meeting.

We attended a delegates' training course held at night at Bankstown. When we returned to the second night of the course two weeks later we had recruited 60 new members ... and not long after that Big W Campsie ... from a 40% membership reached a peaking 90% membership.

How did we do it? Like it said ... the majority of the employees had no idea about what the Union did, or was. What made the casuals not become members at the very beginning, at induction, was the belief that casuals have no rights whatsoever ... they were basically led to believe that the union could not ever do anything for them ... we made certain that everyone we spoke to realised this was not true... We also made use of the fact that Big W had a new Enterprise Agreement due... this satisfied many because they were able to see for themselves that the Union did in fact do everything in its power to represent the interests and rights of all employees by having them documented in this "rule book" as we like to call it...

Over the past year we have informed, supported, represented and advised new and existing members in various situations that have arisen in our workplace. There have been over $5000 worth of back pays organised for members. We have dealt with matters regarding discrimination, and at this very given moment we are in the middle of negotiations with the company's head office after being faced with over 50 members being asked to all go home early after having turned up to work a rostered shift during stocktake.

From being a store with 40% membership and minimal union appreciation... you can now walk into Big W Campsie at any day or time of the week and see that just abour everyone is wearing their SDA union badges ... and everyone appreciates the role the Union plays for all staff members. They know never to say "we have no rights, we cannot do anything about it." When a problem however major or minor arises. They know to turn to their delegate for advice if a problem does arise and they know that there is a delegate available during the day, night and on the weekends.

90% membership to us, the Big W Campsie delegates, means there is till room for improvement. Yet another challenge which we gladly agree to take on, 100% membership, mission impossible? - maybe not.

This address was presented to last week's Labor Council Organising Seimnar


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*    Visit the SDA

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*   Issue 85 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Tony Abbott – Workers' Friend?
The new Workplace Relations minister relives his own union background and explains why he’s really just another worker at heart. Honestly.
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*  Politics: The Politics of Petrol
Australia might be burning, but is it a fire that can be brought under control?
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*  Organising: The Battle of Campsie
SDA delegate Maria Kavaratzis recounts how the Campsie Big W has been transformed into a union shop.
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*  History: Scabbing Through the Ages
Neale Towart looks back at how popular culture has treated those workers who have not considered themselves part of the collective.
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*  International: Diary of a Showdown
The Korean Metal Workers Federation recounts a week which culminated in violent attacks on workers outside the Daewoo factory.
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*  Economics: Debt Dumping Campaign Enters New Phase
The millennial deadline might have passed, but Jubilee 2000 is not giving up the fight for debt cancellation for the world’s fifty-two poorest countries.
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*  Health: The Real Drug Wars
As Africa attempts to deal with the HIV crisis, access to the medicines that can relieve victims’ suffering is emerging as a major humanitarian issue.
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*  Satire: Liberals Claim Triumph in Queensland
John Howard has claimed the Liberal Party’s decimation in Western Australia and Queensland as a triumphant vindication of his party’s embracing of the national competition policy.
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*  Review: Beyond a White Australia
As we ponder the One Nation renaissance, a new book challenges the current debates around xenophobia and the perceived threat of danger from Asia.
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  The Locker Room
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Tool Shed
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Letters to the editor
»  No Shrinking Violet
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»  Service Fees a Cop Out
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»  Not Quite Right on Discrimination
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»  Explaining it to Pauline
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»  The Canada Bay Debacle
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