By James Wells

ADELAIDE: Narta-member and South Australian-based appliance retailer, Radio Rentals, has claimed the action taken by SA Unions has been a direct attack on its business.

Radio Rentals managing director, Gavin Hancock, said action taken by SA Unions on Saturday was deliberate and designed to affect the company’s retail business, its customers as well as the welfare and jobs of its 422 staff.

The action was taken by SA Unions after 16 technicians employed by Radio Rentals were locked out and docked a month’s pay after they failed to sign individual workplace agreements and walked off the job on Thursday.

SA Unions secretary, Janet Giles, helped distribute leaflets condemning the Federal Government’s workplace changes at Radio Rentals stores in the marginal Liberal electorates of Kingston, Makin and Wakefield.

“So that customers of Radio Rentals know clearly that this employer is using the unfair workplace laws to try and starve out workers and force them to sign individual contracts," Giles told the ABC on Saturday.

"Look, Radio Rentals might think twice if customers start raising issues with them directly,” Giles said.

“Today’s actions by SA Unions appears to be calculated to hurt our business by confronting our customers as they enter our stores,” Hancock said on Saturday.

“I have a very important message for Janet Giles… many of our 422 people are union members who are loyal to their union and their employer. You are attacking their welfare. Don’t use them as pawns in dishonest political campaigns or militant action by a tiny minority of their work colleagues.

“I ask you to be considerate. Think of the other 422 employees. Please stop using our industrial issue for a political campaign. Say what you like about the Howard Government and its industrial laws, but leave Radio Rentals and its 438 employees out of it.”

Hancock said the industrial action is not related to the new federal industrial relations laws and emphasised that the company has not at any time relied upon any aspect of the new legislation. He dismissed claims by the SA Unions and the Federal Opposition that the issue was connected to the newly-implemented laws as “blatant and political misinformation”.

“This matter has nothing to do with the new legislation,” Hancock said.

“Radio Rentals has throughout relied upon and continues to act solely under provisions of the 1996 Federal industrial legislation.”

The company said it has imposed a “legal and protected lock-out” on each of the 16 service technicians who started a protracted industrial campaign on Thursday last week.

“Radio Rentals never wants to lock out employees and it is up to them and their union to withdraw their two-year campaign of rolling industrial action and come back to work,” Hancock said.

“Nobody needs to lose wages. All they need do is withdraw their industrial action and they can come back to work. The ball is in their court.”

Hancock dismissed claims that the company wanted to force individual agreements at the expense of collective agreements.

“Almost 40 per cent of our employees are on collective agreements and we are really happy with that,” said Mr Hancock.

“We support collective agreements that are fair to employees and to the business.  We have a record of successfully negotiating collective agreements.”

Hancock said that apart from the 16 technicians that were continuing to take industrial action, it was business as usual for the 97 per cent of its 438 staff.