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Coles warehouse workers continue strikes as talks fail
11/07/2012 - Striking warehouse workers say sales will suffer at Coles supermarkets in Victoria, but the supermarket chain says there will be only minimal disruption.
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About 300 workers picketed the gates of a key Coles warehouse in Melbourne's north from 6am (AEST) on Tuesday, stopping goods from going in or out.
The strike will continue into a second day after talks on Tuesday failed to make headway.
The workers have vowed to strike until they are granted the same shift penalty and RDO entitlements they say workers at other Coles warehouses receive.
National Union of Workers state secretary Tim Kennedy said a proposal presented by Toll, which manages staff at the Somerton warehouse on behalf of Coles, as part of negotiations had already been rejected by workers.
He said Coles had spent millions of dollars trying to get around the strike action by sending supply lines through other warehouses but as Somerton was the national distribution centre, the strike would seriously undermine the company's capacity to stock its shelves.
"Most consumers will not take the risk to go to a Coles supermarket now in the belief that things may not be there," Kennedy told reporters at the warehouse.
However Coles spokesman Jim Cooper said the impact would be minimal.
"Coles hopes that the discussions can be resolved swiftly but has put contingency arrangements in place to ensure minimal disruption to our Victorian customers," Cooper said in a statement.
"As EBA agreements are negotiated on a site-by-site basis it is not appropriate to compare terms and conditions across sites. That's just like comparing oranges and apples."
Workers claimed to have been "nudged" by both a car and a truck during the picket action outside the warehouse.
About 300 workers braved the rain in red union waterproof ponchos and huddled around fire barrels outside the warehouse gates.
A spokesman for Toll, which manages the workforce at the site, said the company had offered a four per cent pay rise, higher than deals negotiated by the union at similar work sites.
Union delegates will meet with Toll again on Wednesday.
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