Contributed by Ugly
More than 350 workers at Coles Smeaton Grange are locked out for not agreeing to accept the company’s plan to get rid of them for the least cost possible.
About two years ago, it was announced that the operation at Smeaton Grange would be automated in 2023. Since then, the workers, backed by the United Workers Union (UWU), have been trying to get a better deal.
They are making their presence at the gate to pressure management to talk. Their action is now regarded as a strike. Their have been presences outside some Coles supermarkets
These workers want an offer that guaranties fair redundancy, which recognises the years of work put in, and takes account of the difficulty of finding work during the pandemic. They want what they see as a fair wage rise written into the new enterprise agreement.
Photo by Kayla Osborne: Coles Smeaton Grange workers outside their workplace
Anger has risen over the disclosure that Coles supermarket sales soared by 6.9 percent in 2020 and earnings by 10.7 percent. CEO Steven Cain got an increase of 28.9 percent, taking his income for 2020 to $7 million.
The workers are angry about being left out.
They insist that the company has a responsibility to look after those who have contributed to its bottom line over the years, and part of this is to consider the long-term interests of the workforce, rather than just casting them aside.
They want to be given the right to transfer to other company jobs and locations.
UWU director Matt Toner said “Workers have been forced to strike because Coles has yet to offer them a redundancy that recognises the huge and lifelong contribution these workers have made, the right to transfer to new, automated warehouses and job security for long-term casual workers who will otherwise walk away with nothing”.
He said the failure to negotiate a settlement “means no pay for 350 workers and their families over Christmas and New Year. This aggressive attitude has only emboldened workers”.
The dispute is continuing.
An effort is being made to build community support for these workers. Part of it is a signed letter to Steven Cain with thousands of names signed on through this link