By Charles Pauka

Striking workers at the Coles national distribution centre in Melbourne have rejected a new pay offer. About 200 workers met on Thursday at the warehouse in Somerton, in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, to vote on the latest offer from Toll Holdings, which runs the warehouse.

Toll has made the updated offer in a bid to end strike action, which has continued into a third day on Thursday.

Workers at the Coles warehouse have made it clear to the labour provider Toll Holdings what the issues are that have lead to industrial action. Strike action will continue after a meeting with Toll management failed to make any headway with negotiations in previous days.

NUW delegates and state secretary Tim Kennedy met with senior representatives of Toll to press their case for equal rights and pay for the workers.
Mr Kennedy said Toll, which manages and employs the workers at the Somerton warehouse on behalf of Coles, had outlined the same proposal already rejected by workers.

“Our members believe that if a Coles shift worker in a Coles Warehouse gets paid a shift loading for working an afternoon shift or a night shift, then Toll shift workers doing exactly the same work in a Coles warehouse supplying Coles Supermarkets should also be paid a shift loading for performing shiftwork,” Mr Kennedy said.

“Toll, however, has told us that their commercial relationship with Coles prevents them from offering an employment loading that includes shift loading.

“We know for a fact Coles provides shift loading at other sites, so we remain baffled as to why Coles won’t treat their Somerton workers the same,” he said.

Mr Kennedy said the union once again outlined the five key issues that need fixing in order for workers to return to work:
•    Time for workers to have with their family: the creation of a roster for day shift workers that allows them to take a rostered day off and voluntary public holiday system – so that workers can choose rather than be forced to work public holidays.
•    Shift loading to be paid for the entirety of a shift to a worker who does afternoon or night shift – not a couple of hours per shift as proposed by the company.
•    The automatic option for direct and indirect casuals to become permanent employees after 6 months.
•    Inclusion of basic union rights in the Agreement – such as Right of Entry.
•    A decent wage increase to catch up to other Coles warehouses.

In Queensland and Western Australia, Coles shoppers have been signing petitions supporting warehouse workers inSomerton,Victoria.

On Coles’ request, Fair Work Australia has granted orders to prevent unprotected industrial action at key Coles distribution centre sites in NSW.
On Wednesday morning, 76 workers at the Coles Goulburn, NSW distribution centre stopped work when they were asked to pick up some of the work from the Somerton DDC. They returned to work at 12.30pm as the walk-off was determined unlawful.

Toll had also warned it would not tolerate ‘illegal action’ such as blocking staff and vehicles from entering or exiting the facility and was considering legal action.

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