Fair Work to be brought in again to settle Coles warehouse dispute

The industrial umpire will again be brought in to deal with the controversial blockade by workers at a Coles warehouse in Melbourne, after they defied a court order last week and continued protesting.

Discussions continued over the weekend, after workers voted against an offer from the Toll Group, which manages the Sommerton site, on Friday.

The order handed down by the Victorian Supreme Court last week banned the National Union of Workers (NUW) and 25 individuals from continuing their action, which is preventing trucks entering or leaving the warehouse.

The initial order was handed down a week ago, and last Wednesday Justice Anne Ferguson extended the ban for a further seven days.

Barrister for the Toll Group, Stuart Wood SC, said it appeared one of the people named in the order was in contempt.

"The picket is still continuing, it has actually intensified," he told the court.

"There is a physical barrier across the entrance.

"There is evidence of some of the defendants still being involved."

According to Toll Group, management and staff tried entering the site on Wednesday morning, but were warned by police that it was not safe to proceed.

“Toll will not be taking any action at the union's blockade that endangers safety," Toll Group general manager of corporate affairs Andrew Ethell said in a statement.

The union said it had no control over the blockade, but also told the company they could arrange for some Toll people to access the site, Ethell alleged.

"The people blocking vehicles from entering the site are acting illegally, regardless of whether they have been named as part of a Supreme Court order or not," he said.

Suggestions that Coles would step in have also been quashed, with chief executive Ian McLeod saying the issues are not for the supermarket giant to resolve.

He said that while he is concerned that the blockade outside the site is continuing despite the court order.

"It is somewhat troubling when you've got … up to 200 people who actually want to go to work but have been denied the right to do so. I think that's concerning," McLeod told Fairfax radio on Thursday.

The NUW is calling for pay and entitlements to be increased for the site’s 600 workers to get them in line with other Coles workers.

It wants Coles to take part in enterprise bargaining agreement talks with Toll in a bid to break the stalemate.

But McLeod has ruled out a Coles intervention.

"That's not for us to decide,” he said.

“This is a dispute between Toll and their employees.”

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