Coles workers picketing last week in rain at Somerton. Picture: Trevor Pinder Source: Herald Sun
WORKERS at Coles’ national distribution centre will return this morning after striking staff accepted a new pay deal.
A picket line, reinforced with wooden pallets tied with wire, was being dismantled last night.
Trucks were expected to roll through the Somerton warehouse this morning for the first time in two weeks.
The National Union of Workers members accepted a 12 per cent pay rise over three years, saying they won a “much better” agreement than what had been offered.
But Toll, the company that employs the workers on behalf of Coles, said last night that the deal was for the same amount as first offered but distributed differently.
Workers voted to accept the deal late yesterday afternoon, ending two weeks without pay for the company’s 600 Somerton staff.
National Union of Workers secretary Tim Kennedy said the agreement dealt with issues at the centre of the dispute, including shift penalties, public holidays, rostered days off and casuals.
“The union is very happy the workers, after a long two-week struggle, have been able to secure an agreement,” he said.
The union had argued its members should have the same conditions they said workers at other Coles warehouses receive.
“There is no doubt, in order to make certain we won these conditions of equal treatment, there had to be some give and take,” Mr Kennedy said.
Toll corporate affairs manager Andrew Ethell said the deal changed how workers were paid.
“The total value of Toll’s offer has not changed over the past two weeks. It remains an effective 4 per cent annual wage rise over three years,” he said.
“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.”
A family allowance payment was added to the deal in lieu of a shift penalty for workers rostered on between 2pm and 10pm.