This morning members of the United Workers Union (UWU) in New South Wales stepped up their industrial action, filing for their strike action to be indefinite.
Last week, Coles made good on a threat to lock workers out for three months over the Christmas and New Year period. A three-month lockout for more than 350 families over the festive season is something the UWU has never seen.
Workers are calling for the company to see sense and negotiate a fair outcome, instead, Coles has gone on the attack in an unprecedented response for the warehousing and logistics industry. In response, workers have not only filed for an indefinite strike but have also taken the fight to Coles by petitioning outside of stores and in shopping centres, telling customers about the unfair actions Coles has taken against them.
Over the weekend hundreds of potential customers chose to shop elsewhere rather than give Coles their business. Workers will continue to step up these actions over the coming weeks, asking community members to shop local over the Christmas period rather than give their hard-earned money to greedy national retailer Coles.
Coles is currently building a new automated warehouse but so far have refused to give skilled and long-serving warehouse workers in Smeaton Grange an opportunity to be redeployed to the new warehouse. Some of these workers have worked for the company for over 30 years.
Workers are seeking improved redundancy entitlements, the right to transfer to the new Coles warehouse, job security in the form of a permanent to casual ratio and an increased wage offer. Workers are calling for forced redundancies to be paid at five weeks per year of service, capped at 104 weeks.
Quotes attributable to Matt Toner, United Workers Union Director of Logistics:
“When Coles locked out workers for three months, they thought workers would get scared and cave on their calls to be treated fairly in the face of coming automation. Coles were wrong, these workers won’t be intimidated. So today workers have escalated this dispute by responding with a notice of an indefinite strike.
“Coles should take this as a clear message that workers will fight hard for their rights. They want what is fair for them and their families. They know Coles can meet their demands because they have seen profits increase astronomically, even through the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Quotes attributable to a Coles Smeaton Grange worker who wishes to remain anonymous:
“This weekend a lot of us had our kids with us at the strike while we were standing up for our rights. Ensuring our rights and demanding to be respected is an important lesson for them to grow up with. But my kids are worried they won’t have Christmas this year because of Coles’ aggressive response.
“Coles has made so much money from our hard work – even through this global pandemic we kept working. Now they want to kick us to the curb because we are fighting for a bit more respect, a bit more security for us and our families.”