Tech giant Apple has struck a new pay deal with retail staff that locks in starting rates lower than supermarket checkout workers and probable pay cuts in real terms every year for the next four years.
Last year, Apple recorded revenues of $6.1 billion from its Australian operations and a profit of $88.5 million in the country, which was lower than the previous year after its operation paid a $154 million dividend to its US parent.
The 2013 net profit after tax was $52 million, down from $58.5 million in 2012.
The new pay deal was ratified by the Fair Work Commission on Thursday and will give Apple's lowest paid staff a base hourly rate of $20.55 from November.
Pay rates for all staff, including its so-called genius customer help staff, will rise by 2 per cent a year for the next four years, which is well below the current rate of inflation.
The agreement says these staff include salespeople as well as those stacking shelves, doing repairs and providing technical assistance.
The deal was struck with employees without the involvement of a union and was signed on behalf of employees by a senior human resources executive at the company.
In a staff ballot to approve the deal, 1916 of the company's 2372 employees cast a vote. Of that number, all but 200 voted in favour of the deal.
'I would say that $750 a week is not a princely sum'
Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said the pay deal only just exceeded the minimum award standards, which was surprising, but set a new and welcome benchmark.
"It is perfectly realistic and one we should be looking forward to seeing in the future from other retailers," he said.
Mr Zimmerman said wages were a big burden on retailers who were also battling to improve service.
He said the tightness of the conditions in the Apple agreement could reflect the fact that the company was trying to adjust to the high costs of the Australian marketplace.
Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association national secretary Joe De Bruyn said the basic wage equated to about $750 a week was not high by industry standards.
By comparison, the bottom rung for retail workers at Coles was $773.70 a week and the basic award minimum for shop assistants was $703.90, he said.
"I would say that $750 a week is not a princely sum given that Apple is a multinational company," he said.
Mr De Bruyn said the below-inflation pay increases also contrasted with the 3 per cent increase in the recent minimum wage case.
'They are pretty miserable increases'
"They are pretty miserable increases in my view, given that the starting rate is not a princely sum," he said.
"We have not settled with anybody in our EBAs for less than what is the going inflation rate."
He also noted that the agreement traded away an entitlement under the award for double time on Sundays in favour of time and a half.
Although not specified in the agreement, it is believed staff get a once-a-year 25 per cent discount on one "major unit".
They also benefit from a year-round 10 per cent discount on Apple products, which they can "gift" to family and friends.
Apple did not respond to questions.
The company is also facing a class action on behalf of workers in its American stores, who are claiming the company should pay them for the time taken for mandatory security checks at the end of their shifts. The checks are claimed to take about 15 minutes.
Apple is also under fire over its tax treatment after it paid $36 million last year.
Follow Mat Dunckley on Twitter @mat_dunckley