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Nationalise Coles and other Big Food and Beverage Corporations

Written by: Ned K. on 26 December 2020


In recent weeks two major disputes between workers and large corporations are a preview of what workers can expect in coming years from the multinational corporations and compliant governments in Australia.

As people in Australia sat down for Xmas dinner, warehouse workers at a Coles Distribution Centre in NSW were being locked out by Coles until at least 11 February 2021. The workers had already been locked out for a month over a dispute with Coles about job security and redundancy pay. Coles announced during negotiations for a new Agreement that they were going to close the Smeaton Distribution Centre and build a new automated warehouse which would employ about a quarter of the number of 400 workers at the Smeaton Centre. To make matters worse for workers, Coles said it would not offer any of the workers in the warehouse that was closing a job in the new warehouse.

When workers took action for better redundancy pay and job security, Coles used the Fair Work Act to lock workers out until 1 February.

The warehouse workers, members of United Workers Union, took their protests to Coles retail outlets and held protest marches on Coles Head Office in Sydney.  Their Union initiated a boycott Coles campaign but as this article is written, Coles remained unmoved.

Coles have a lot to lose in this dispute as have the workers. The workers' loss is their livelihood and if Coles lose this dispute, they know that their plan to automate warehouses across the country will be met with even more resistance on a larger scale from workers.

Competition between a growing number of large retailers in Australia is driving them to reduce production costs and distribution costs to make more profits in a tighter market.

If the Coles workers win this first round struggle, Coles know that further closures will cost them much more.

Further south in Adelaide, brewery workers from the Japanese owned West End Brewery sat down to Xmas dinner with mixed feelings. They were ordered back to work prior to Xmas after a two-week strike for better redundancy pay in response to the brewery owner Kirin’s (part of the Mitsubishi group of companies) decision to close the brewery in June 2021. Following the return to work, the workers and their Union, United Workers Union, negotiated a slightly better redundancy package with seven additional weeks’ pay for each directly employed worker in addition to their existing redundancy package won in previous disputes. However, long term labor hire workers missed out altogether.

Both the brewery and Coles disputes show the strong fighting tradition of workers employed by multinational corporations. If you don't fight you lose.

What characterised both these disputes was that there was no initiative from the Labor Party or any other parliamentarian to question why the closures of workplaces was allowed to go ahead. 

Multinational corporations just make a decision to close up shop and there is complete acceptance by the Parliaments of the country about this and the struggle becomes left to the workers to fight for the best deal they can get to minimize the blow of being thrown out of full time work with working conditions and pay that they had won over many years’ employment and struggle.

Workers in Australia want to work in industries and sectors where decisions about their future and their livelihoods are made in the interests of Australia as a sovereign nation and the workers who work in the industries and sectors concerned.

Any politician worth their salt would be calling for the economic lifelines of the country to be in the hands of the Australian people, rather than tame acceptance of decisions by multinationals to increase their profits.


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