Two hundred unionists and supporters took action outside a temporary warehouse in Prospect, western Sydney, on December 4 to protest supermarket giant Coles' lock-out of 350 workers. Chanting “Union! Power!” and “Who stole Christmas? Coles stole Christmas!”, they also called for a boycott of Coles during the holiday season.
The protest, organised by the May 1 Movement, blocked the main entrance to the temporary warehouse throughout the afternoon.
Green Left talked to one of the locked-out Coles warehouse workers. The worker explained: “Coles is using automation to replace our whole unionised workforce at the Smeaton Grange facility. We are only looking for protection for ourselves and our families.
“Coles has walked away from negotiations over our future; we are talking about seeking a reasonable deal that will protect our families. The aim of this action today is to bring Coles back to the table to discuss a fair settlement of the dispute.”
A protest organiser told the crowd: “Coles is a parasite company; it is one of the most profitable in the country. They want to automate the distribution centre and throw 350 workers out onto the streets. We’re not going to cop it.”
The United Workers Union, which represents the warehouse workers, said the lock-out was already causing shortages at many Coles stores. UWU spokesperson Matt Toner said on December 4: “It’s clear the closure of one of Coles largest warehouses is causing huge strains across Coles’ NSW operations as they go into the busiest period of the year.”
Toner said that Coles was facing stock shortages in supermarkets across south-western Sydney and the NSW South Coast, showing that the company was breaking its “promise to customers” that there would be no shortages as a result of its lock-out.
“These workers have worked overtime as essential workers during the pandemic to try to stop shortages like this. Now, Coles has locked them out and caused those very shortages the workers tried so hard to prevent.”