Click or flick across for more photos of the striking workers.
BORDER shoppers were yesterday urged to boycott Woolworths by Barnawartha North warehouse workers who hung sheets over the nearby Hume Freeway overpass with slogans attacking the supermarket giant.
The signs, which read “Woolies are Bullies” and “Wage justice for our region. Support us ... don’t shop @ Woolies”, remained on the overpass for most of the day before VicRoads ordered they be taken down.
More than 350 union members among Woolworths’ warehouse workers yesterday started an indefinite strike aimed at getting a better pay deal.
Union representative Dario Mujkic said workers were paid well below their city counterparts.
Mr Mujkic, an industrial officer with the National Union of Workers said staff at the regional warehouse earned $203 per week less than their colleagues in Melbourne who did the same job.
While the latest wage offer for workers in Melbourne is a $1.04 per hour increase, Woolworths management was only offering an extra 74 cents per hour to Barnawartha workers.
“Locals have been dropping in to talk about our issues and they can understand as it happens in lots of workplaces,” Mr Mujkic said.
Woolworths spokeswoman Claire Kimball declined to respond directly about the union’s sign asking shoppers to boycott its supermarkets.
“We will work constructively to see the outstanding issues brought to resolution and a return to business as usual,” she said in reply to the signs.
Ms Kimball said Woolworths management was yesterday speaking with those in the Victorian union who “have authority to negotiate with us”.
“At all sites and across all grades Woolworths already pays above the modern award rate, and will continue to do so through the new offer,” she said.
“Our Wodonga Distribution Centre workers are paid in line with other workers in other metro and regional areas.”
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Union representative Neil Smith said more than 150 union members lined the front of the closed site from 5am yesterday.
“It was freezing cold this morning at that time, but they were here and will stay until the job is done,” he said.
Mr Smith said no trucks would enter or leave the site, with union members remaining until an agreement was reached.
VicRoads regional director Bryan Sherritt said under the Road Management Act, written consent was required to place signs on roads controlled by VicRoads.
“Once advised of this, the protest organisers agreed with the removal of the signs,” he said.
Mr Sherritt said the placing of a sign either on a road or road infrastructure, without written consent of VicRoads, carries a maximum penalty of $1443.60.
“As the signs were removed, a penalty was not applied,” he said.