Coles Staff Offered Gift Cards If They Accept ‘Insulting’ Pay Offer Instead Of, Perhaps, Money

Coles staff have called a pay rise from the supermarket giant “insulting”, and say the company even offered them in-store gift cards if they voted to accept it.

It looks like Coles has learnt nothing from the fallout of its terrible Christmas gift, and is now offering an actual gift card instead of a proper pay rise. Which raises the question — why can’t they just give money?

The supermarket has proposed to staff a new pay agreement starting at $25.27 per hour, and a gift card of $150 for casual staff or $600 for full-time staff if they vote to accept.

The proposed agreement was sent to staff this week, and would determine their wages and workplace conditions for the next four years.

However, employees say the offer is “disrespectful”, with many staff saying they don’t even earn enough to feed themselves. But hey, as long as Coles maintains its cool $1.1 billion in profits, right?

Part-time Coles employee Shona (not her real name) told the Guardian Australia she has to get her groceries elsewhere because she can’t afford to shop at her own workplace.

“I work there, but where I shop is cheaper, even with the 5% Coles staff discount,” she said.

Another employee said that some staff still relied on benefits and food assistance from charities to make ends meet.

“We’ve got team members that are skipping meals, eating food that’s provided by the company in the tea room – bananas, apples, Coles Ultimate brand cookies – because they can’t afford it,” he said.

“They’re putting $10 at a time in their car for fuel and just barely get to work and back. That’s no way to live.”

Coles staff say they can’t afford to shop where they work, despite a 5% staff discount. Image: Getty.

Unions Dispute Coles’ Agreement

Two unions represent most Coles staff and are split over the offer. The SDA Retail and Warehouse Union welcomed the proposed agreement, saying it offered a number of improvements for staff. It also said the gift cards were “welcome money in the pocket for workers confronting significant cost of living pressures”.

However, the Retail And Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) is pushing for staff to reject the offer, and wants a minimum wage of $29 an hour, the abolition of junior rates (which apply to Coles workers for two years after they turn 18), better penalty rates, and improved job security.

RAFFWU secretary Josh Cullinan also said the gift cards were a “deliberate effort to induce a yes vote by offering poor people food, and to try and attract their own staff to come back to shop for them again because they can’t afford to shop for them now”.

Staff have said the offer of a gift card in exchange for a yes vote is “insulting” and “disrespectful”. Image: Getty.

Coles Responds, Says The New Agreement Has ‘Several Benefits’

Coles have of course disputed the RAFFWU’s claims, and say that the agreement provides “several benefits” for staff including greater flexibility, maintaining above-award base rates of pay, and enhanced leave entitlements.

“We are pleased to be able to deliver all of this as part of the proposed enterprise agreement,” a Coles spokesperson said.

“We have been working hard to listen to our team members and their bargaining representatives to provide a proposed enterprise agreement that provides benefits for our team members and which supports our operations.”

Ultimately, the ball is now in the worker’s court, who must decide if a pay bump and a one-off gift card are worth it. Staff are scheduled to vote on the agreement from Monday.