Supermarket AWAs bad news for Coles workers, says  		Labor

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Supermarket AWAs bad news for Coles workers, says Labor

The imposition of AWAs on existing employees by the new owners of a Perth supermarket bodes ill for the tens of thousands of Coles employees whose company is under threat of a takeover, Labor alleged today.

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The imposition of AWAs on existing employees by the new owners of a Perth supermarket bodes ill for the tens of thousands of Coles employees whose company is under threat of a takeover, Labor alleged today.

ALP IR spokesman Stephen Smith has been pushing forward the case of the IGA store in Perth that has been sold to the Ten Talents company, with workers forced onto an AWA that cuts paid meal breaks, holiday pay and penalty rates.

According to WorkChoices, existing employees of companies are entitled to stay on their current pay and conditions for 12 months after a sale to a new employer. However an ABC report claimed yesterday that the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union (SDA) has obtained legal advice that Ten Talents is safe from prosecution under the Government's legislation, which 'effectively renders the protections useless'.

Legal advice

The SDA claimed the advice came from one of the nation's leading industrial relations barristers who has no links to the Labor Party or the union movement.

Labor's Industrial Relations Spokesman, Stephen Smith, says thousands of workers are at risk if this situation turns out to be legal.

'In the retail industry in particular, it's not uncommon to see stores or businesses change hands,' Smith said. 'Recently we've seen speculation about future ownership of Coles, and so this has implications for thousands of employees, not just in the retail industry, but in the Australian workforce generally.'

AWAs or the sack

On the ABC's World Today program yesterday one of the supermarket employees, Michael King, said the new employer spoke to the workers individually and told them to sign the AWAs or not report for work on Monday.

'Under this new AWA they wouldn't be paying out for public holiday pay, the 10 public holidays you get every year,' King told the ABC. 'There was an exclusion under the contract that they wouldn't pay for your meal breaks or your tea breaks during the day, so it was just a bit dubious.'

King refused to sign the AWA but about another 60 employees have done so.

The SDA says the AWAs have taken away many conditions, including holiday leave loading, overtime rates and penalty shifts.

OWS investigates

The union said under the law employees are entitled to keep their existing conditions for a year with a new owner, and it is illegal to coerce anyone to sign an AWA. However, the SDA claims coercion has taken place at the supermarket and the Office of Workplace Services today confirmed to WorkplaceInfo that it is investigating the situation.

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