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Coles’ lock out of workers at a major south-western Sydney distribution centre was labelled “a disgrace” by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese today in a visit to the site.

In November Coles locked out 350 workers and closed the Smeaton Grange shed for three months after the workers took industrial action in their claim for a fair redundancy.

“(The fact that) workers will continue to be locked out over Christmas and up to February is quite frankly a disgrace,” Mr Albanese. (Link to footage HERE).

“I have indicated that very clearly on behalf of the Australian Labor Party to Coles management.

“It is completely unacceptable that they are not prepared to negotiate in good faith to resolve these issues and get these outstanding Australian men and women back to work.”

Mr Albanese said workers needed to be looked after as they face automation of their jobs.

“We all know about technological change. What we need to do though is make sure workers are looked after as change occurs.

“These people are essential workers. These are people who the Morrison Government praised as getting us through the pandemic.

“It was our cleaners, our supermarket workers, our truck drivers who work each and every day to keep Australia going during what has been a very difficult 2020.”

A worker at the site said to Mr Albanese: “Essential workers have been locked out of their job now while trying to bargain fairly. We’re now in this position locked out for three months and still sitting here a month later.”

Mr Albanese responded: “It’s not a very fair reward for what you did during the pandemic is it?”

United Workers Union national president Jo Schofield said the move by Coles to lock out workers without willingness to further negotiate showed Coles’ lack of understanding of the position workers faced as their jobs were automated.

“Coles’ most senior management, the board and shareholders need to consider the impact of this lock out on every day working Australians who simply want a fair deal when their jobs are automated,” she said today.

United Workers Union Logistics director Matt Toner said workers had never been focused on a pay rise but were concerned about a just transition as the huge shed is replaced by automation.

“Coles is spending over $1 billion to automate these hard working Australians out of a job. Our members want a just transition. It’s time Coles gets serious about resolving these issues,” he said.

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