Published 31 March 2020
80% of warehouse workers for Coles Supermarkets went on strike demanding better safety measures as they are worried about the risk of contracting the coronavirus as they work in tight quarters with many people.
March 31, 2020 — On Friday, 80 percent of workers for a warehouse that supplies Coles Supermarkets went on strike. The strike action occurred at the Coles distribution centre in Laverton. Workers are demanding better safety measures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are worried for their safety and the risk of contracting the coronavirus as they work in tight quarters with many people.
Their primary demand is the enforcement of proper social distancing within the warehouse. The Australian Government advocates for at least 1.5 meters to achieve social distancing, however, workers state that the Coles warehouse does not make this possible with the hundreds of workers that are employed there. Workers also state that they are only given two alcohol wipes each day, and that machinery and headsets are not being properly cleaned or sanitized.
The strike lasted several hours and only ended when the warehouse management promised to improve their cleaning and sanitizing procedures and implement ways to achieve social distancing. Many of the workers are still skeptical and it remains to be seen how quickly the changes will be implemented in the warehouse.
The strike points to key issues that are arising in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Businesses that are deemed essential, such as those in the food industry, are requiring staff to work in conditions that put them at risk for contracting COVID-19. Many workers continue to work for fear of losing their job, while others — like the employees at the Coles warehouse — are realizing the implications of working during the crisis and are demanding immediate protective actions. It is vital that all essential services, especially those in the food industry, take the proper steps to keep staff, the business and the community at whole safe from COVID-19.