Striking Coles workers reject offer, Fair Work expected to be called in

The dispute between workers at a Coles warehouse in Melbourne and their employer continues to escalate, with workers rejecting an offer from the company yesterday and expectations it will reach the industrial umpire today.

The strike began on Tuesday, over what workers say are conditions inferior to those at other Coles warehouses, and their decision to block trucks entering the site led to predictions that the action would soon impact Coles consumers.

The Toll Group, which manages the 600 staff at the Somerton warehouse on behalf of Coles, offered a boost of 0.5 per cent to workers' annual pay increases, bringing it to 4 per cent.

Other entitlements previously put forward, including payment of shift loading on annual leave, and the ability to earn rostered day’s off (RDO’s) were left out of the company’s offer, according to National Union of Workers (NUW) Victorian secretary, Tim Kennedy.

It is expected that the Toll Group will make an application to Fair Work Australia at 10:30 this morning to lift the picket, Kennedy said.

"The purpose of the application is to try and remove the picket," he told AAP.

But the union will contest the action, arguing that the industrial action is legal and peaceful.

"We believe and we're confident what we're doing out at Somerton is legal and within the bounds of protected action, and that it is safe and peaceful," he said.

"We feel we're on very strong grounds to defend that application."

He said the workers will continue to strike until they get the response they need from Coles.

"We prefer to be sitting down with Coles and Toll management to resolve the dispute rather than having these technical arguments" he said.

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