Sunday, May 22, 2022
HomeCultureBooksBetter Read than Dead staff continue to negotiate rights

Better Read than Dead staff continue to negotiate rights

John buys his books from Better Read than Dead in King Street, Newtown. The staff there help him choose Christmas and birthday presents. He supplies the ages and interests of the kids he buys for and the staff choices unfailingly delight their targets.

The staff chase up books for John, one of which was out of print. They arranged a special printing, and charged him the normal price.

Exceptional service is the standard from this decades old Sydney institution.

More than a year ago the Better Read than Dead staff wanted to secure better working conditions through a new enterprise agreement. They joined RAFFWU (Retail and Fast Food Workers Union), and entered into negotiations with the owners, who apart from the store, have significant other business interests.

Despite a promising start, discussions stalled, so legally sanctioned moderate industrial action was taken, such as no cash handling, no overtime worked, and window displays not done. At one point the owners locked the staff out. A staff member was dismissed. RAFFWU are supporting this worker, challenging the sacking in the courts.

This stressed both the staff, and also the “progressive” literary community. Overland magazine published a letter of support from 300 published authors. Locals visited the store with pastries. A supporter set up a coffee tab of $100 at a nearby cafe for the staff, which has been rolled over more than once.

In July it appeared an agreement had been reached. According to staff and RAFFWU the deal included re-instatement of pre-2017 Sunday rates, parental leave, a structure to deal with harassment, defined mechanisms to convert casual staff to permanent, and a small pay rise.

Business as usual resumed. Months went on, and the union continually approached the owners as to the state of play. According to RAFFWU, the owners started to back away from the July agreement.

Previous industrial action was reinstated and a Fair Work Commission hearing November 25 sought to convene a further conference December 1 in an effort to assist the parties to finalise an agreement. It is also expected the FWC will issue a new Protected Action Ballot Order so that members can secure access to further forms of industrial action, including possible strike action before Christmas.



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