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Progressive workers win backing

Published: 6:23PM Saturday September 16, 2006 Source: One News

Supermarket distribution workers locked out by Progressive Enterprises have been given some heavyweight backing.

Unions representing workers across Asia Pacific have condemned the company's handling of the three week dispute.

The support came as locked out staff organised an unusual event to raise much needed money - a car boot sale.

Odds and ends were for sale to assist those struggling to make ends meet .

Locked out worker Dwayne Beynon says he is selling a little remote controlled car and some books. He made $85 at the boot sale on Saturday morning.

And it all helps.

Workers have been locked out for three weeks, until they agree to abandon their claim for a national collective agreement.

But unions say they are getting plenty of support.

"Pensioners with envelopes carrying hundred buck notes down at the supermarket picket lines," says union official Ged O'Connell. "People (have been) coming out giving us $20 notes, $10 notes. Yesterday we had 60 food parcels arrive here."

But life has become tough.

"This is my very empty fridge that's normally very full of the good stuff for the kids," says locked out worker Virginia Watson. 

She is now relying on donations to feed her four children.

"It's really starting to hurt. The kids haven't had a decent meat and vegetable meal to eat for over a week now, been pretty hard for them."

And that's something many in the the wider community seem to be aware of.

"We just felt it important there was community support, not just union and workers support," says Canterbury University student Hayley McLay, joining the picketers.

The picketing workers have now got international backing. Unions representing 30 million workers in the Asia-Pacific region are meeting in Singapore, and are backing their stance.

"They're condemning the actions of Progressive Enterprises in locking out the workers and have undertaken to offer whatever support they can," says Carol Beaumont of the Council of Trade Unions.

But that doesn't faze Progressive who say they had no option but to initiate the lock out to guarantee supply. They maintain it is legal, but unions will challenge that this week in court.