Wild scenes as Coles, Woolies staff strike

Hundreds of employees at Coles and Woolworths will walk off the job in a first-ever national strike.
Hundreds of employees at Coles and Woolworths will walk off the job in a first-ever national strike.

Coles and Woolworths staff have walked off the job demanding better wages, with one union leader saying some couldn’t even afford the groceries their own employers were selling.

Employees represented by the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union stopped work from 10am Saturday for two hours at stores in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the ACT.

Coles and Woolworths workers on strike at the Coles in Spencer street, Melbourne. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling
They joined hundreds of other union members across the country. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

The strike, the first of its kind on a nationwide level in Australia, impacted both Coles and Woolworths stores, amid growing union criticism of the two grocery chains.

About 1000 RAFFWU members took part, with federal secretary Josh Cullinan stating staff were fighting for higher wages, safer workplaces and secure jobs.

“Workers are paid a few cents more than the minimum wage,” he told Nine News.

“They just want a living wage to deal with the rising cost of living.

“They can't even afford the groceries they’re selling.”

Unions are calling for better pay and conditions for its frontline supermarket workers. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling
Coles and Woolworths both said they expected the strike to have minimal impact to customers. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Mr Cullinan said also he wanted casual employees to get ongoing jobs and for action to be taken on violence in stores.

“They (staff) just want to be able to have more hours in their contract to rely on,” Mr Cullinan said.

“Mega companies making mega profits should be able to provide that.

“We also want to see each time a worker is assaulted or abused to be treated like a crime.

“The level of abuse, threats intimidation and assaults is unprecedented and outrageous.

“The employers are not lifting a finger to stop it.”

Industrial action was also scheduled to take place at stores on Friday, sparking allegations of retaliation.

The RAFFWU claimed Coles said it would stand down every worker who implemented the stop-work ban.

“Coles pays poverty wages then threatens to take even those meagre wages away from any worker who dares to stand up,” the RAFFWU said.

“To avoid doubt, workers are not paid for striking and workers at Coles engaging in bans on Friday, 6 October will not be paid by Coles.

“Refusing to pay workers while they ban limited work is a choice by Coles in its ruthless exploitation of workers.

“Woolworths has not made the same choice and is not currently refusing to pay workers implementing bans.”

The list of impacted stores is not known, with striking employees ordered to rally at certain points, including:


Melbourne – Coles Spencer St (near Southern Cross Station)

Gippsland – Coles Traralgon Central


Sydney – Belmore Park, Eddy Ave entrance, Haymarket (near Central Station)

Broken Hill – Woolworths Broken Hill


Brisbane – outside Myer Centre McDonald’s at corner of Elizabeth and Albert streets

Northern Brisbane – Woolworths Narangba

Charters Towers – Woolworths Charters Towers

Gladstone – Coles Gladstone

Western Australia

Perth – Coles Byford

Australian Capital Territory

Canberra – Coles Tuggeranong

South Australia

Adelaide – Woolworths Aberfoyle Park


To be confirmed

In a statement, a Coles spokesperson said there was no disruption for customers on Saturday, or any disruption to store operations.

“At this stage, we understand that fewer than 20 of our team members rostered today participated in the stop work action,” the spokesperson said.

“Coles continues to provide above-award conditions under our current enterprise agreement and passed on the Fair Work Commission’s 5.75% annual wage increase to our supermarket team members.

“We dispute the misinformation being pushed by the bargaining representative, which is not a registered trade union and represents 0.34% of our total workforce.”

Woolworths, meanwhile, said only 300 of its 132,000 staff were expected to take part in the walk-off.

Industrial action is also scheduled to take place at stores on Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Mariuz

A supermarket spokesperson said initial bargaining agreements with the RAFFWU had occurred.

“We have a long history of bargaining in good faith with our team and will continue to do so,” they said.

“However, we acknowledge and respect the right of team members to take protected industrial action.

“Only individuals who have appointed RAFFWU as their bargaining representative are able to participate.

“As a result, we would not expect customers or our stores to be materially impacted. “

The spokesperson said Woolworths had also “passed on” a 5.75 per cent wage increase.