Toll and NUW reach deal to end blockade

A union-led warehouse blockade that lasted two weeks has ended after parties reach an agreement on workplace conditions

Toll and NUW reach deal to end blockade
Toll and NUW reach deal to end blockade
By Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi | July 24, 2012

The two-week long dispute between Toll and the National Union of Workers (NUW) has come to an end, with work expected to resume today.

The blockade, which stopped operations at a Coles warehouse in Melbourne’s Somerton, ceased as Coles workers voted to endorse a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

The offer stands at annual 4 percent pay increases for three years. A family allowance payment has been agreed on instead of a full shift allowance, including a rostered day off and shift allowances for working afternoon and night shifts.

The agreement also sees a voluntary public holiday system come in place, which will allow workers to choose rather than be forced to work public holidays.

"The total value of Toll’s offer has not changed over the past two weeks," Toll spokesman Christopher Whitefield says.

"In effect, arriving at this final negotiated agreement has resulted in shuffling the structure of how wages and conditions will be allocated, effectively reducing some conditions in order to be able to increase others.

"It is a shame the illegal blockade that’s been in place for the past two weeks has delayed a resolution being reached earlier."

Work volumes are expected to increase gradually, he adds, and it might take several weeks before the site returns to normal operations.
NUW Victorian Branch Secretary Tim Kennedy says Toll’s Somerton employees can now receive the same standards as Coles warehouse workers, such as shift allowances and rostered days off.

"The NUW members at the Coles warehouse have proved that when workers stick together and defend union values, such as equal treatment for equal work, they can achieve great things," Kennedy says.

"What this dispute points to is that there is a concerning problem with the business model that relies on outsourcing and contracting out, when it leads to large multinational companies such as Coles relinquishing responsibility to the workers that are the backbone of their prosperity."

Coles spokesman Jim Cooper says the dispute has had minimal impact on Coles as the Somerton site stocks non-perishable goods such as beauty products and canned food.

He says the supermarket’s reputation has not been affected either, with customers being aware the dispute was between Toll and the NUW.

"When the dispute was occurring, we put contingency arrangements in place to have alternate methods of deliveries going to stores," Cooper says.

"By and large those contingency plans worked extremely well and we saw very little impact on shelves in stores as a result of the Somerton distribution centre dispute."

Cooper says he is pleased Toll and the NUW have reached an agreement and says Coles will now work with Toll to move volumes back to the Somerton site.

"We have been re-routing stock as part of the contingency plans so we will now work with Toll to have product progressively moved back to the Somerton distribution centre as quickly as is practical," Cooper says.

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