The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) says it has received numerous complaints from Noni B employees on a range of workplace issues, from cuts to part-time hours and take-home pay, to health and safety concerns, to consistent understaffing and pressure to meet unrealistic sales targets.
The complaints follow the SDA’s refusal earlier this month to approve a proposed enterprise bargaining agreement that it had been negotiating with Noni B after the Fair Work Commission ordered the fashion chain to scrap its previous agreement by March 4.
That agreement, which expired in 2014, allowed staff at the recently acquired Specialty Fashion Group chains – including Autograph, Crossroads, Katies, Millers and Rivers – to be paid below the industry award, with no overtime, evening or weekend penalty rates.
According to a report by the Australian Financial Review, the SDA was on board with the proposed new agreement until Noni B declined to back pay employees and cut part-time hours by 20 per cent in the final days of the old agreement.
Despite the fact that 81 per cent of employees who voted were in favour of the deal, the union has refused to sign it, which could prevent Fair Work from approving the proposed agreement.
A Noni B spokesperson told the AFR at the time that the move was “unprecedented”.
The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union has also attempted to block the deal.
The SDA on Sunday said that Noni B’s decision to cut hours for part-time workers has placed excessive sales demands and work tasks on remaining staff, resulting in them being unable to take breaks to go to the bathroom.
“In some cases, this deliberate understaffing meant retail employees were at times left in stores alone and could not take toilet breaks or were forced to lift heavy boxes and work up ladders in an unsafe manner,” Gerard Dwyer, national secretary of the union for workers in retail, fast food and warehousing, said in a statement.
“The lack of staff has also resulted in masses of stock remaining unprocessed and being stacked in change rooms and blocking fire escapes, clearly in breach of WHS [workplace health and safety] laws.”
A spokesperson for Noni B, which also operates the Rockmans, W Lane, Beme and Table Eight chains, told IR it was “most unfortunate that the SDA has decided to wage its campaign through the media against Noni B Group’s enterprise agreement, which has been approved by 81 per cent of the group’s relevant employees.”
“The company has tried to arrange a meeting with the SDA to discuss its specific concerns, and a meeting arranged for last week was cancelled by the union. The safety and wellness of the group’s people are critical to the company and all concerns are investigated and where appropriate addressed,” the spokesperson said.
A further statement from Noni B Group is expected later today.
The SDA claims the company has attempted to force managers to sign “individual contracts” that could leave them worse off when compared with the Award, “depending on their rosters”.
“As a result of these multiple workplace breaches and some shortcomings in the proposal itself, the SDA has refused to approve the proposed Noni B enterprise bargaining agreement,” Dwyer said.
“The message is clear. It’s time for Noni B to clean up its act and to adhere to good workplace practices for its retail staff.”