Workers at Woolworths Liquor Distribution Centre in Melbourne, Australia, walked off the job after the company told them they will be replaced with labour hire casuals.

Walton Pantland Australia, Oceania, NUW,

NUW WoolworthsWoolworths has told workers at its Laverton warehouse they will replace them with labour hire casuals – breaking a commitment the supermarket giant made not to do this. Woolworths has suddenly decided that all new starters at their Melbourne Liquor Distribution Centre (MLDC) will be casuals.

This is part of an escalating conflict over the use of casual labour and a decision by the company to shut the Hume DC distribution centre in north Melbourne, with more than 600 permanent workers facing unemployment.

Previously, all employees – including casuals – had been directly engaged and there have been clear pathways to permanent employment for casuals. These arrangements were negotiated by National Union of Workers members.

NUW members walked off the job in protest early on Monday morning, and now Woolworths is threatening them. A picket line at the Leakes Road site in Laverton of more than 200 striking workers blocked trucks from entering or leaving the warehouse.  The picket threatened to disrupt the supply of liquor to supermarket shelves.

“They are worried, they are very worried,” a member of the union negotiation team said. “It came as a surprise to them that we actually went through with what we did … they know the effect that [the picket] has had on them already.”

Woolworths approached the Fair Work Commission – the Australian employment relations tribunal –  seeking orders to break the picket line. Today the Fair Work Commission ordered that the industrial action is not authorised and that the NUW and NUW members must stop organising the action.

The NUW advised its members of this Order and the possible consequences of not complying with the Order.

Woolworths’ decision undermines secure jobs, the workforce and the union. The company have increasingly been making decisions that create uncertainty and insecurity for workers.

NUW members will stand up for their right to dignity and respect at work, and jobs all workers can count on.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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