In a vote this morning 350 Coles workers in south-western Sydney locked out by Coles for three months endorsed the company’s 3.5 per cent wage offer.
But the vote does not signal the end of the bitter dispute.
In the vote today workers called on Coles to negotiate with them about the issues they have always seen as more important than a pay rise: a fair redundancy and addressing the company’s ability to arbitrarily fire workers.
The endorsement directly addresses and rejects Coles’ persistent attempts to portray the dispute with Coles Smeaton Grange workers as being about a pay increase.
Coles has locked out the workers for three months, leaving them without pay over Christmas.
Ahead of the successful vote Coles worker Ian told a meeting at the Smeaton Grange site held this morning:
“To show good faith to Coles and to show everyone else in Australia this dispute is not about a measly 3.5 per cent pay increase I’m going to move a motion here today to accept the 3.5 per cent pay increase and call on Coles to come to the table with everything else we have been discussing.”
United Workers Union logistics director Matt Toner said:
“This vote removes what has been Coles’ deliberately misleading focus of attacks on workers,” Mr Toner said.
“Coles’ spin doctors have been busy amping up the narrative workers were locked in a pay dispute – that narrative has been revealed today as the lie it always was.
“Workers have always made clear their concerns are about a fair deal when the Smeaton Grange shed is closed in a couple of years and their jobs are automated out of existence.
“This is a seminal dispute between a group of workers demanding a just transition and a multi billion dollar company that is automating them out of a job in the mindless pursuit of profits.
“We need a just transition and we need it now.
“The complete breakdown of trust – cemented by Coles’ cruel decision to lock out workers for three months over Christmas – also means workers want assurances they will not be sacked arbitrarily.
“Coles has attempted to bully these workers into submission.
“Coles should do the right thing and negotiate on the outstanding matters and treat these workers with the dignity and respect they deserve – an approach that has been sadly lacking in Coles’ actions to date.”