A new report by academics with the ACU highlights the experience of warehouse workers who lost their jobs when Woolworths, Australia’s largest private sector employer, closed the Hume Distribution Centre in the northern Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows in 2019.
In 2015, Woolworths announced its plan to close the Hume DC and relocate operations to a new automated site, the Melbourne South Regional Distribution Centre in Melbourne’s southeast. The Hume DC was finally closed at the beginning of 2020. Cumulatively, almost 700 jobs were affected.
The report finds that:
Quotes attributable to Matt Toner, United Workers Union, Logistics Director:
“Warehouse workers across Woolworths and Coles face ongoing uncertainty in the face of impending automation and site closures. We know that our members have decades of experience, deep knowledge, and transferable skills to offer their companies. They should be able to maintain their employment on the same terms and conditions, rather than be thrown to the scrap heap – where they will inevitably end up in more precarious and lower paid positions.”
“The reality is that even automated warehouses need human workers. If Australia does not want to go the way of the Amazon model, our political leaders need a plan for a just transition in warehousing and other industries affected by technological change.”
“We can have sophisticated warehouses and good union jobs—we don’t need to choose between the two.”
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