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On Wednesday afternoon Coles announced they were starting an indefinite lock out of their 350 warehouse workers at the distribution centre in Smeaton Grange, NSW.

The indefinite lock out comes after an already-brutal three-month lock out, which Coles used to punish its workers for taking a 24-hour stoppage in November last year.

Coles is automating its workers out of a job and plans to shut down the warehouse within the next three years. All the workers want are just terms that recognise their service and loyalty to the company, including better redundancy entitlements and a training payment to help them transition into new jobs and industries.

Coles’ approach stands in stark contrast to rival Woolworths, which recently set aside $50 million to help transition its employees to the “Future of Work”.

The company has shown little sympathy for the workers or their families during this lock out, despite the fact that it was these workers who kept supermarkets stocked throughout the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, during the pandemic, Coles experienced more than 7% increase in their profit with net profits equalling almost $1 billion.

Quotes attributable to Matt Toner, Director of Logistics, United Workers Union:

“The move by Coles to enact an indefinite lock out is totally reprehensible.

“Coles has a total disregard for the serious financial hardship faced by their employees after receiving no income for three months as a result of the lock out, let alone the serious impact on workers’ mental health.

“It’s time we improve the bargaining system so that multi-billion dollar companies can’t get away with behaviour like this.”


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