$4m support for sacked Coles workers 'industry welfare' says critic

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$4m support for sacked Coles workers 'industry welfare' says critic

The Federal Government's decision to provide $4 million in assistance to about 1000 Coles workers soon to be made redundant has been attacked as 'industry welfare'.

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The Federal Government's decision to provide $4 million in assistance to about 1000 Coles workers soon to be made redundant has been attacked as 'industry welfare'.

Professor Mark Wooden of the Melbourne Institute, an economic think tank, said that while it was normal for governments to support workers retrenched by failed organisations, there was less justification for the public assisting workers sacked by a wealthy company such as Coles.

'This smacks of industry welfare to me,' he said. 'Why is Coles not doing this themselves? Because they don't have to.'

Professor Wooden said there were sound economic reasons to help large groups of newly unemployed people find work, but suggested profitable companies which culled workers in restructures should contribute more themselves.

Restructure

Coles announced earlier this month that 440 jobs at the Somersby distribution centre on the NSW Central Coast and 580 in Victoria would be lost as it restructured its distribution facilities.

Workplace Relations Minster Kevin Andrews announced yesterday the Government would provide up to $4000 a worker to help in areas such as retraining.

Meanwhile the NSW Branch of the NUW is claiming that the company has 'lied' to sacked staff about the number of positions available for redeployment. NSW State Secretary, Derek Belan, claimed the retrenched workers were earlier told there would be redeployment options for anyone who wanted to stay on.

Only a 'handful' of jobs

But he said that during a meeting with Coles yesterday workers were told there would be only three management positions and 'a handful' of warehouse positions for the 440 sacked Somersby workers, 100 of whom have asked for redeployment.

Belan claimed the jobs that do exist are casual rather than permanent and pay lower rates.

A spokesman for Coles denied any commitment had been made or broken. He said it would not be known for six weeks how many people would be re-employed and said the redundancy package would be generous.

A spokeswoman for Andrews said the assistance was not for companies but for workers.

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