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Shortages in vital consumer goods have hit at the heart of the Coles network in the lead-up to Christmas, after Coles locked out 350 workers from one of Sydney’s largest distribution centres.

Shortages in goods previously distributed through the Smeaton Grange distribution centre are apparent in Coles stores throughout Sydney, including flagship stores highlighted by Coles’ management as they stock up for Christmas.

At Coles in Macquarie Centre on Tuesday stock shortages and empty shelves were visible in bottled water, tissues and canned fruit. Shortages and empty shelves were also visible at Coles in Westfield Parramatta.

Last week Coles’ chief operating officer Matt Swindells visited the Macquarie Centre store, writing in an email to all Coles staff that the store “looks fantastic”.

While the shortages at Macquarie Centre do not rival the empty shelves being experienced throughout south-west Sydney and the South Coast – where Smeaton Grange traditionally supplies about 130 stores – they show a distribution system failing to keep up ahead of some of the busiest weeks of the year.

“Coles promised that customers would not be affected by shortages as they locked out 350 workers,” United Workers Union director Matt Toner said today.

“Coles has broken its promise to customers they would not be affected by shortages and it has broken promises to treat workers fairly as they close the Smeaton Grange shed in 2023.

“Workers simply want fair treatment as they are forced out of their jobs.

“Coles is busy denying these shortages are occurring – anyone simply has to visit a nearby Coles and they will find out that Coles is lying – and in south-western Sydney they will see major shortages.

“The categories we highlighted last week – particularly drinks, tissues, canned fruit and nappies – appear to be in trouble across the broader Coles network.”

On Friday Coles’ chief operating officer Matt Swindells sent a video to all staff nationally recorded at Coles’ Macquarie Centre store.

In the accompanying email he said: “For me, it’s the passion and unity of our Operations team and the way you are supporting each other.  As we head into our Christmas peak, I truly am grateful for the amazing job you are doing.”

United Workers Union’s Matt Toner said: “It’s a pity Coles is not grateful for the hard work of essential workers who worked through bushfires and the pandemic and simply want a fair deal when they are going to be made redundant.

“Coles puts out it’s all about the pay rise, but it’s actually about treating workers with dignity as they are forced out of their job  – how would you feel if your job was being phased out in two years after the worst pandemic in living memory?”

ENDS Media Contact: 1300 898 633,