A heavy-handed move by Coles to lock out workers at one of the region’s biggest warehouses for three months has hit stores in South West Sydney and the South Coast hard with shortages of vital products including nappies, canned food items and bottled water.
The current shortages also raise the prospect of further shortfalls of household and food items for south-western Sydney and South Coast residents in the busy retail period before Christmas.
The shortages contradict Coles’ assurances through their spokespeople that the aggressive industrial tactic of locking out workers for three months over Christmas would cause no shortages.
Coles locked out the 350 workers in late November, escalating a dispute over redundancies and job security after announcing the warehouse in Smeaton Grange would close to make way for a new automated one in 2023.
United Workers Union Logistics Director Matt Toner said: “It’s clear the closure of one of Coles largest warehouses is causing huge strains across Coles’ NSW operations as they go into the busiest period of the year.
“Right now Coles is breaking its promise to customers that there wouldn’t be shortages because of their decision to lock out their workers.
“These workers have worked overtime as essential workers during the pandemic to try to stop shortages like this. Now Coles has locked them out and caused those very shortages the workers tried so hard to prevent.
“There is clear, undeniable, photographic evidence of stock shortages in Coles supermarkets across south-western Sydney and the South Coast.
“Whatever way Coles wants to spin it, they are breaking their promise of no shortages for customers because of their three-month lockout of workers at Smeaton Grange.”
Stores in Ingleburn, Liverpool, Narellan, Mount Druitt, Camden, Mount Annan, Picton and Campbelltown have all been seen with major shortages in-store.
On the South Coast stores affected include Warrawong, Fairy Meadows and Corrimal.
Shortages have impacted products including tissues, nappies, canned food, bottled water, as well as food and drink products like chips, biscuits, cordial and energy drinks.
The shortages are a sign of the impact on products distributed by the Smeaton Grange warehouse, responsible for a network of 180 Coles stores, after a three-month lockout of workers who had been taking legal industrial action.
“Workers were simply making legitimate claims about their redundancies and took action as they are entitled to,” Mr Toner said. “Workers want to get back to serving their communities, what they are mainly asking for are redundancy provisions that attempt to address the terrible jobs market they are facing when the warehouse ultimately closes.”