Labor leader Anthony Albanese has joined hundreds of workers locked out of a Coles warehouse without pay over Christmas.
The supermarket giant has locked the warehouse workers out of its southwest Sydney depot until February after negotiations over pay and conditions broke down.
Coles is planning to close the warehouse and shift to automation in 2023.
This week, the workers finally agreed to endorse the company’s 3.5 per cent wage offer, but the vote did not signal an end to the bitter dispute.
They are asking to be treated fairly through the redundancy process and given the option to be redeployed across other Coles warehouse facilities.
Mr Albanese said the workers and members of the United Workers Union accepted that automation was occurring.
“What they want is a fair redundancy system and negotiations in good faith with the company about those issues relating to automation as Coles consolidates its distribution centres,” he told reporters in Smeaton Grange on Wednesday.
“We all know technological change can displace workers. What we need to do is make sure workers are looked after as change occurs.”
Mr Albanese said the warehouse workers, some of whom had been with Coles for more than 30 years, were among those praised for getting Australia through the coronavirus pandemic.
“The fact the company is saying these workers will continue to be locked out over Christmas and up to February is quite frankly a disgrace,” he said.
“I have indicated that very clearly on behalf of the Australian Labor Party to Coles management.
“It is completely unacceptable they are not prepared to negotiate in good faith to resolve these issues and to get these outstanding Australian men and women back to work.”
Coles has been contacted for comment.