Coles

This month there have been four big wins for the union movement. Seventy jobs were saved at Murray Goulburn after a six month campaign; Dave, the union delegate sacked for leading a protest in his undies, has been reinstated; electricians at Crown Casino all got their jobs back on union conditions; and supermarket giant Coles has agreed to fast-track a vote on a new workplace agreement that will pay much higher penalty rates.

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Duncan Hart, a student who works part-time at a Coles supermarket in Brisbane, has won a David and Goliath battle against his employer and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) in the Fair Work Commission.

He claimed the enterprise bargaining agreement between Coles and his union left thousands of workers worse-off than they would be under the award, and was therefore invalid.

Australian farming is in crisis.

Family farmers are being taken over by corporate agribusinesses, their land is being polluted by mining companies and they are powerless to stop and the supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths which keeps prices low for consumers by paying producers prices so low they barely cover costs.

At the same time there is increasing speculation in buying water rights. Farming cannot survive without clean water. The most reliable source of water is artesian, which the mining industry can draw from unregulated and pollute at will.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s persistent response to media questions about allegations raised in the unions’ Royal Commission concerning his former union, the Australian Workers Union (AWU), has been to refuse to provide a “running commentary”.

After being requested by the commission to appear before it last week, he is now reported as saying: “I welcome the opportunity to talk about my 21-year record of standing up for workers”.

The article below first appeared at The Conversation on September 11. Claire Parfitt is a research student at the University of Sydney. She is affiliated with the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance and is a coordinator of the People's Food Plan project.

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For two weeks “Nothing in, Nothing out” was the mantra on the picket as the trucks were turned away at the Coles warehouse in Somerton, Melbourne.

Angered by the fact that workers for Coles warehouses in other states were receiving better working conditions, even though they were doing the same job, the National Union of Workers (NUW) members at the Coles Somerton warehouse took action.

Coles owns the warehouse, but management is outsourced to Toll Logistics. Workers are paid below industry standards despite both companies making obscene profits.

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