Australia : Polar Fresh, NUW dispute: 'Innocent people' caught in middle of pay dispute affecting Coles
Updated July 29, 2016 15:21:56
The owner of a fresh food company is angry about being caught up in the dispute between Polar Fresh and the National Union of Workers (NUW), which is disrupting food deliveries to supermarket giant Coles.
About 600 workers went on strike earlier this week and a protest is being held outside the Polar Fresh cold storage facility at Truganina in Melbourne's west.
The centre holds cold items for Coles stores in Victoria and Tasmania, including dairy, meats and poultry.
The union is holding talks with Polar Fresh to end the dispute and the company won a temporary Supreme Court injunction preventing strike action at alternative distribution centres.
John Said, the chief executive officer of Fresh Select, based at Werribee South, said the situation was frustrating because they were either unable to deliver or had been delayed in making deliveries to Coles distribution centres.
He said that impacted on staff harvesting crops and logistics around deliveries, and if the dispute continued the cost would amount to a "six-figure" sum.
Farmers federation calls on Government to step in
The Victorian Farmers Federation urged the Victorian Government to intervene in the dispute, saying it was "threatening to disrupt farm produce from getting onto supermarket shelves".
In a statement, VFF president David Jochinke said farmers faced multi-million-dollar losses.
"The State Government needs to get stuck in and help resolve this disruptive union action," he said.
"Our farmers are stuck in the middle of this ugly farce, they can't get their produce into distribution centres.
"Their trucks are being stopped at the gates and it's costing them thousands of dollars in extra transport costs."
Use 'common sense' to resolve dispute
Mr Said said both wholesalers and consumers were losing out.
"At this point in time we're the innocent people in all of this trying to do the right thing by Australian consumers and we're caught in this crossfire," he said.
"It's something that the two parties need to sit down and figure it out. I'd say sit down and apply common sense."
The NUW's Ryan Laws said both parties want the dispute to end but some issues remain unresolved.
"That all depends on them and their position," he said.
"We've got a few hundred members here right now and we'll have a peaceful protest out the front of Polar Fresh all day and we're happy to go into the weekend if that's what it takes."
First posted July 29, 2016 13:32:27