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‘Alternative arrangements’: Coles’ Christmas supplies rocked by strikes

Anastasia Santoreneos
·3-min read
Customers separated by protective plexiglass shields are seen in the self-service checkout area of a Coles supermarket following the easing of restrictions implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia, June 17, 2020.  REUTERS/Loren Elliott
‘Alternative arrangements’: Coles’ Christmas supplies rocked by strikes. Source: Getty

Staff members at supermarket giant Coles’ largest distribution centre in NSW have gone on strike on Thursday over jobs and benefits, one month before Christmas.

More than 350 workers at the Smeaton Grange warehouse are taking industrial action, after Coles revealed it was building a new, automated warehouse, and had so far refused to give workers at the NSW centre the opportunity to be redeployed there.

Some of the workers have reportedly been working for Coles for more than 30 years, the United Workers’ Union (UWU) revealed.

Workers are asking for improved redundancy entitlements, the right to transfer to the new warehouse, a permanent casual ratio and an increased wage offer.

“Coles’ intention to automate is anti-community in its mindless pursuit of profit,” UWU director Matt Toner said.

“Workers at Coles Smeaton Grange are taking action today because they’re fighting for the right to have a job.

“Workers want the right to keep their job at the new facility and if not want to be respected for the many years of service they have given to ensure Coles’ profits, even throughout this global pandemic.”

Toner said while automation was a “significant challenge”, workers wanted a “transition”.

“For many nearing the end of their working lives, finding another job will be difficult and finding another full-time permanent job could be impossible. Coles has a responsibility to workers that have given so much.”

The Smeaton Grange site is expected to close in 2023, with Coles offering enhanced redundancy provisions, from a maximum of 52 weeks’ pay to a maximum of 80 weeks’ pay for involuntary redundancies.

Australians have taken to Twitter to show support for the workers, slamming Coles for putting profits above staff.

While the UWU said it was likely the action would disrupt supply chains in the lead up to Christmas, Coles said consumers can expect business as usual.

"To ensure that our stores can continue to offer a full range of products for our customers through the Christmas and New Year period, we have made alternative arrangements for products ordinarily distributed from the Smeaton Grange distribution centre," a spokesperson said on Thursday.

Workers will be voting on whether to continue the 24-hour stoppages over the coming days.

Yahoo Finance has contacted Coles for further comment.

With AAP.

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