Woolies staff walk off job over virus scare
Woolworths has slammed the decision for hundreds of warehouse staff to walk off the job on Monday amid safety fears after a team member tested positive to coronavirus, insisting it had the situation under control.
More than 240 workers at the Melbourne Liquor Distribution Centre (MLDC) in the city's southwest went home as the supermarket giant's online division prepares to once again be stress tested during the state's tight lockdown measures.
The staff undertook legal cease work action over safety standards and requested through the United Workers Union (UWU) a 72-hour closure for deep cleaning after the staff member tested positive for COVID-19, but a Woolworths representative confirmed to news.com.au WorkSafe Victoria had overturned this and the centre has been cleared for reopening.
The supermarket giant said the 11-hour disruption will ultimately result in some stock arriving late from the distribution centre that provides liquor to Dan Murphy's and BWS stores.
"This is incredibly disappointing for our Victorian customers, liquor store team members and the many transport carriers who were unable to unload deliveries this morning," the Woolworths spokesperson said in a statement released on Monday night.
"All of the matters discussed with WorkSafe Victoria today could have easily been worked through with the health and safety representatives at the meeting we had scheduled for 6am (Monday)."
The infected team member last worked at the site on Tuesday last week and the company said staff had been informed of the positive diagnosis on Friday.
Woolworths insists it has comprehensive response plans in place for the deadly virus developed from guidance provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.
"Our response at MLDC has been enacted in full accordance with the medical advice, with all necessary cleaning and contact tracing completed by Saturday.
"We will continue to follow our established safety protocols in response to COVID-19 challenges.
"We ask the UWU to respect the expert medical advice underpinning our plans and work constructively with us on any future events."
The development comes after four Woolworths stores were closed for deep cleaning on Sunday night after workers returned positive COVID-19 tests.
The supermarket giant confirmed infections in staff members at Newmarket, Bundoora, Cranbourne East and Karingal Hub.
Any customers who shopped in the stores between July 28-30 and feel unwell in the next two weeks should get tested.
Woolworths said they were making contact with all relevant team members and would provide "full support to those required to self-isolate".
"As a food retailer, we already have very high standards of cleaning and hygiene in place. As an extra precautionary measure, the stores closed overnight for an additional deep clean," a statement read.
"While the risk of transmission to customers and team members is low, the safety and wellbeing of the local community is our priority."
The stores had reopened on Monday and were trading as normal.
Originally published as Woolies slams 'disappointing' staff move