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Try again, Toll: striking Coles workers reject wage offer
13/07/2012 - Striking workers at a Coles warehouse in Melbourne have vowed to continue their industrial action indefinitely after rejecting a new pay offer from their employer Toll Group.
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Hundreds of workers at the Somerton site voted unanimously on Thursday to reject Toll's offer, which was set to boost workers' annual pay increases from around 3.5 per cent to four per cent.
National Union of Workers (NUW) Victorian secretary Tim Kennedy said the latest offer omitted some entitlements the company had previously put forward, such as payment of shift loading on annual leave.
"If we're cynical, you might say the company took away conditions from some workers and gave them to the others in an attempt to divide this workforce," he told reporters.
"This workforce is united. This workforce can't be bought. This is about fundamental rights and equal treatment."
Toll Group says they will head to Fair Work Australia (FWA) to seek clarification around issues with the on-going workplace action.
"We support the workforce's right to demonstrate, but when it becomes a blockade that's an illegal action as equally important it's an unsafe action," Andrew Ethell, Toll Group's general manager of corporate affairs, told reporters.
"We know the NUW shares our culture of safety and therefore in this case they've made the wrong call.
"The leadership of the NUW should go back to that picket and they should take responsibility for ensuring that an illegal and unsafe blockade is ended."
The union once again called on Coles to intervene in the dispute.
"They (Coles) are benefiting from the exploitation of these workers having inferior terms and conditions," he said.
Kennedy said the NUW would continue to push for entitlements in line with other Coles warehouse workers.
He said it was now inevitable that the strike, now in its third day, would leave the availability of groceries "severely impaired" at Coles supermarkets.
Toll manages staff at the Somerton warehouse on behalf of Coles.
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