The head of supermarket giant Woolworths has called for an increase in retail workers’ wages to keep up with the rapidly rising rate of inflation across the industry.
In a message to shareholders on Tuesday morning announcing the business’ third-quarter trading results, chief executive Brad Banducci said he backed a proposal from the Australian Retailers Association industry body to lift the minimum wage in line with the Reserve Bank’s underlying rate of inflation when the next wage review is handed down in June.
“Importantly, we want to acknowledge the cost-of-living pressures that are being felt by our customers and our team,” Banducci said.
“We also support the Australian Retailers Association’s position for an increase in team member wages that keeps pace with underlying cost-of-living increases.”
Woolworths reported inflation across its food business of 2.7 per cent, lower than rival Coles’ 3.3 per cent.
Banducci’s remarks are at odds with other retail bodies and fellow supermarket executives, with Coles’ boss Steven Cain warning last week of the danger of wages rising in tandem with inflation, as he called for an increase in immigration rates to offset rising prices.
The comments come as Woolworths reported a strong start to the new year, with sales from January to March rising 9.7 per cent across the business to $15.1 billion. This included comparable growth of 4.4 per cent at the company’s key supermarket division to $11.4 billion, ahead of analyst estimates.
Despite these strong sales results, Banducci said the quarter had been challenging, with floods, supply chain disruptions and high levels of COVID-related absenteeism hurting the supermarket’s standing with customers.
However, the company said trading had been strong so far in the fourth and final quarter of the financial year, with the business now focusing on “returning to a more stable operating rhythm and delivering consistently good shopping experiences for our customers”.
Costs relating to COVID-19 have continued to fall, coming in at $66 million for the quarter, with the business saying it is continuing to look at cutting additional pandemic-related costs where possible.
“I would like to thank our customers for their support and patience, and especially our team, for doing an amazing job in ensuring that we were able to continue to supply food and everyday needs to communities across Australia and New Zealand, as well as continuing to navigate the relentless and varying challenges of COVID and natural disasters,” Banducci said.
Extracted from WA Today