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Hundreds of Coles and Woolworths staff have walked off the job demanding better wages, with one union leader saying some couldn’t even afford the groceries their own employers were selling.

Employees represented by the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union stopped work from 10am Saturday for two hours at stores in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the ACT.

The strike, the first of its kind on a nationwide level in Australia, impacted both Coles and Woolworths stores, amid growing union criticism of the two grocery chains.

Hundreds of staff (pictured) from Coles and Woolworths have walked off the job in a nationwide strike

About 1,000 RAFFWU members took part, with federal secretary Josh Cullinan stating staff were fighting for higher wages, safer workplaces and secure jobs.

‘Workers are paid a few cents more than the minimum wage,’ he told Nine News.

‘They just want a living wage to deal with the rising cost of living.

‘They can’t even afford the groceries they’re selling.’

Mr Cullinan said also he wanted casual employees to get ongoing jobs and for action to be taken on violence in stores.

‘They (staff) just want to be able to have more hours in their contract to rely on,’ Mr Cullinan said.

‘Mega companies making mega profits should be able to provide that.

‘We also want to see each time a worker is assaulted or abused to be treated like a crime.

‘The level of abuse, threats, intimidation and assaults is unprecedented and outrageous.

‘The employers are not lifting a finger to stop it.’

Industrial action was also scheduled to take place at stores on Friday, sparking allegations of retaliation.

The RAFFWU claimed Coles said it would stand down every worker who implemented the stop-work ban.

‘Coles pays poverty wages then threatens to take even those meagre wages away from any worker who dares to stand up, the RAFFWU said.

‘To avoid doubt, workers are not paid for striking and workers at Coles engaging in bans on Friday, 6 October will not be paid by Coles.

‘Refusing to pay workers while they ban limited work is a choice by Coles in its ruthless exploitation of workers.

‘Woolworths has not made the same choice and is not currently refusing to pay workers implementing bans.’

Workers (pictured) are demanding an increase in their wages with one union official claiming that staff cannot afford to pay for groceries on their current wages

In a statement, a Coles spokesperson said they did not expect any disruption to customers from the strike.

‘We remain committed to negotiating a fair and balanced agreement for all,’ the spokesperson said.

‘Coles continues to provide above-award conditions under our current enterprise agreement.

‘We passed on the Fair Work Commission’s annual wage increase to our supermarket team members in July.

‘We dispute the misinformation being pushed by the bargaining representative who is representing less than 0.4 per cent of team members and remain committed to negotiating a fair and balanced agreement for all.’

Woolworths, meanwhile, said only 300 of its 132,000 staff were expected to take part in the walk-off.

Several supermarket chains have been impacted by the strikes (pictured) after staff walked off the job on Saturday at 10am at various locations across the country

Coles and Woolworths said they passed on the wages increase recommended by the Fair Work Commission in July to workers (pictured)

A supermarket spokesperson said initial bargaining agreements with the RAFFWU had occurred.

‘We have a long history of bargaining in good faith with our team and will continue to do so,’ they said.

‘However, we acknowledge and respect the right of team members to take protected industrial action.

‘Only individuals who have appointed RAFFWU as their bargaining representative are able to participate.

‘As a result, we would not expect customers or our stores to be materially impacted. ‘

The spokesperson said Woolworths had also ‘passed on’ a 5.75 per cent wage increase.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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