End to Coles dispute rallies employers against FWA

by Human Capital24 Jul 2012

A two-week long strike at a major Coles warehouse in Victoria ended last night, after workers succeeded in their bid for wage increases and greater flexibility over the use of accrued annual leave – but the aggressive  way in which the dispute was fought has left many employers cold.

According to the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI), it is extremely alarming for business that the illegal blockade waged by workers of Toll Holdings, the company in charge of labour at the site, was allowed to continue for a fortnight under the Fair Work Act. The blockade effectively blocked access and productivity at the job side for the entire strike period.

Despite the Supreme Court twice ordering the National Union of Workers, various union officials and workers to refrain from blocking access to the warehouse, the blockade continued to prevent people going about their business, The Australian reported.

According to VECCI, the workplace rules have become skewed in favour of greater conflict and disruption to business, and this was raised in its submission to the Fair Work Act Review. “The federal government must take the opportunity the Fair Work Act Review presents to inject balance back into the workplace relations system,” Mark Stone from VECCI said. “The company should have been able to go about its business while negotiating, and those workers who wanted to work should have been able to enter and exit the site,” he added.

Stone said that the capacity to freely enter and exit a business premises is a fundamental right of businesses, and management should not be forced to launch expensive legal action in order to do so.

Toll employees voted on July 9 for an indefinite strike in support of a range of improved conditions, including shift loadings and roster changes, to bring them into line with conditions of workers at other Coles warehouses.


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