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Shoppies threatened by new retail union

AAP logoAAP 20/11/2016 Luke Costin

Australia's newest union is going toe-to-toe with a trade union heavyweight, promising to win back penalty rates for retail and fast food workers.

The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union was launched on Monday with only a few dozen members but big plans to step into the space of the 230,000-member Shop Distributive and Allied Employees' Association.

The launch comes after several wages scandals in the retail and fast food spaces, including one after which the Fair Work Commission ruled a new enterprise bargaining agreement for Coles workers failed the "better off overall test".

The RFFWU isn't shying away from a fight for members with the Shoppies, who it calls the "old guard".

But it is happy to work with other unions.

Its website tells prospective members to go to other unions, such as the United Voice and Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union if they don't fit into the traditional description of a retail or fast food worker.

"We respect the work of other democratic and free trade unions," says a statement on its website.

RFFWU secretary Josh Cullinan says nothing has changed for Coles workers since the Fair Work decision in May.

"There have been more than $175 million still taken out of those pay packets," he said on Monday.

"A group of workers and people like myself have decided it has got to stop."

Unite, a small union operating in the retail and fast food space in Victoria, has welcomed the new union and its hostility toward the SDA.

"We will be encouraging our members to join the new union and our activists will be available to help out with campaigns," Unite Secretary Anthony Main.

The SDA has cautioned retail workers to be wary of the new kid on the block.

It points out its new rival is not registered as an industrial organisation, has no legal status to enforce industrial conditions and is not recognised by the ACTU.

"The so-called 'Retail and Fast Food Workers Union' is nothing more than an alliance of political activists and lawyers with a stated desire to undermine the SDA and its coverage of the sector," a spokesman said in a statement.

The SDA rejects assertions that most workers at Woolworths, Coles and McDonalds are worse off under a variety of Enterprise Agreements.

The ACTU declined to comment and referred AAP to their affiliates.

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