On February 10, the Coles supermarket company announced it was indefinitely locking out its workers at the Smeaton Grange warehouse in western Sydney. The move came on top of a ruthless 12-week lock-out since November.
Coles is automating its workers out of their job and plans to shut down the warehouse within the next three years. All the workers want are terms that recognise their long service 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 its rival Woolworths, which recently set aside $50 million to help transition its employees.
Workers at Smeaton Grange recently narrowly voted against a Coles agreement offer for the sixth time. This was despite the company putting forward a $1000 sign-on payment as an enticement for support.
United Workers Union members (the main union covering Coles workers) are urgently calling on the union to activate a strike fund to help them and their families survive against Coles’ blatant attempt to starve them out.
One Smeaton Grange warehouse worker told a rally against gas in Sydney on February 5: “Giant corporations like HSBC, JP Morgan, Citigroup and National Nominees, which own Coles, are the same mob which own the Big Four [banks]. They also have money entrenched in the gas industry.
“We need to unite and fight against Coles and these giant corporations. We also need to fight against Scott Morrison's anti-strike laws, which will further limit our ability to organise to defend our conditions and our dignity.”
The May 1 Movement called another action in solidarity with Coles workers on February 12.
“All unionists must be ready to make a stand and shut down the national Coles Distribution Centre in solidarity with Smeaton Grange Coles Workers,” the May 1 Movement said.
[You can help contribute to Smeaton Grange workers’ struggle here.]