Birthday Blues for Coles Staff

THE union representing workers at the Coles distribution warehouse in Goulburn say they aren’t happy that members won’t be given a half day off to celebrate the city’s 150th birthday.

The supermarket giant has refused to recognise the state’s gazetted Local Event Day half day public holiday and won’t allow staff to take the time off, nor will they pay them any extra as compensation.

National Union of Workers organiser Mark Cochrane told the Post the company’s position stank and was in direct contravention of the workplace agreement.

He argued that the contract entitled employees “substituted public holidays declared by or under State legislation”, meaning if they weren’t given the day off they should at least be compensated later.

“These people are local employees who live in local community, why shouldn’t they have the right to the public holiday like everybody else in the shire?” he queried.

“To me, it just shows the way a large corporation treats the little guys.”

A spokesperson for the supermarket chain said its position was consistent with industrial relations legislation.

The Public Holiday Act of 2010, which formerly recognises Local Event Days, also states that the declaration of such a day does not make it a public holiday.

“Goulburn Cup Day is classified as a Local Event Day, however, it is not categorised as a public holiday under either the Public Holiday Act or the EBA for our Goulburn site,” he said.

“Our position on this matter is consistent with previous years.”

A spokesperson for Fair Work Australia also confirmed that the declaration of an event day did not necessarily constitute a public holiday and that its formal recognition by an employer (ie having to pay penalty rates) was dependent upon the specifics of the workplace agreement. In other words, Local Event Days only had to be recognised if the award stated they did.

While the union is not satisfied with the situation, Mr Cochrane confirmed there were no immediate plans for industrial action.

“At this stage the union is considering its position on the holiday and there is no planned action at this stage,” he said.

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