Somerton action leads to Coles fears
COLES has been forced to the national workplace umpire to prevent strike action breaking out at its food distribution centres across Australia’s east, as a result of industrial unrest that started at a Coles warehouse in Somerton yesterday.
In an application to the national industrial umpire today, Coles successfully applied to stop unlawful industrial action by workers at its Goulburn food distribution centre.
An application to Fair Work Australia tendered by Coles this morning warned that a strike that started yesterday at Coles’ National Distribution Centre in Somerton, could spread across New South Wales unless the industrial tribunal stepped in.
Workers at the Somerton centre went on indefinite strike yesterday morning after negotiations between the company Coles outsources its labour-hire to, Toll Group, and the National Union of Workers broke down.
The indefinite strike, designed to hit both the supermarket chain and the Toll — a logistics and labour-hire firm — saw about 250 workers and union officials barring all entry and exit to trucks.
The picket line remains there, and no trucks have been into or out of the centre since Monday.
Toll has threatened to launch legal action over the “illegal” picket by the striking warehouse workers.
Toll and the NUW in Victoria concluded yesterday afternoon about the dispute.
A vote of all Toll employees will be held this afternoon outside the Somerton warehouse to decide whether to accept a new offer from Toll.
Around 80 Coles employees at Goulburn walked off the job this morning, a spokesman for Coles said.
The spokesman, Jim Cooper, said these workers had not been stood down as had been claimed by the National Union of Workers earlier today.
The workers were asked to return to work, but did not do so, and were advised they were taking unlawful industrial action.
The distribution centre has now returned full operations.
Also this afternoon, Coles succeeded in getting an order from the national industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, to prevent any further industrial action breaking out at either Goulburn or its Eastern Creek distribution centre in Sydney.
It is now believed that the afternoon shift at the Goulburn distribution is working as normal, but the supermarket went to Fair Work Australia at 2pm this afternoon in a bid to stop unlawful industrial action.
“The company believes that industrial action will spread to all three sites,” the supermarket said in the application.
The retail giant believes that the industrial action will also affect its massive Eastern Creek centre in Sydney, which supplies food to all of New South Wales.
About 400 packing and storing staff at the regional NSW centre this morning are understood to have refused to take over shipping work that would normally have been done at the supermarket’s distribution centre in Melbourne.
After this happened, Coles management launched the action at Fair Work Australia, seeking the cessation of all industrial action at Goulburn.