Striking out

A dispute between workers at Coles’ National Distribution Centre in Melbourne turned into an indefinite strike last week over a new workplace agreement with Toll (the company which Coles outsources their warehouse staffing to). Staff believe the agreement does not provide them with the same pay and benefits as employees employed directly by Coles.

Early last week 250 workers and union officials barred access to the warehouse by Toll Group trucks, interrupting the approximately 100-130 trucks that usually pick up and drop off produce to the warehouse each day and threatening supplies to Coles stores.

Toll planned to direct work to other warehouses, and to stand down employees at the distribution centre until the strike ended. However, 76 workers at a regional warehouse in Goulburn walked out for part of the day last Wednesday to protest this re-distribution of the work.  Workers at other large NSW food distribution centres also threatened similar strike action, prompting Coles to make an application to Fair Work Australia to stop the strike in Melbourne and prevent further strike action.  Coles feared strikes could spread to all of its NSW distribution sites.

After losing this application they headed to the Supreme Court on Saturday to seek an urgent injunction. The matter was adjourned to today, Monday 16 July, as the union failed to attend court on Saturday.  The hearing was scheduled for 2pm.

This sees the strike heading into its 7th day.

While breaking news reveals that the Supreme Court ordered an end to the strike it is understood that the union has vowed to continue.  The strike action has had repercussions for availability of stock at Coles stores, particularly regional stores, sales and it may have an impact on prices, in addition to legal costs and reputation damage

Toll and Coles are just two of the many organisations that have seen their employees take action against work policies or practices that they disagree with, and have suffered disruption and financial loss as a result.

In large organisations in particular it can be difficult to judge the mood of the workforce, and when important decisions need to be made it is not easy to judge the potential impact on employees.

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Image from heraldsun.com.au.