The Coronavirus gives with one hand and large corporations take with the other. Full automation won’t hit every Adelaide warehouse but it’s something to think about.
The Coles Smeaton Grange distribution centre on Sydney’s southern fringe will be closed around 2023 and replaced by a high-tech automated warehouse with robots performing most of the work.
It’s part of a wave of automation sweeping the warehousing sector as the retail sector grapples with the challenges of online shopping.
There will be more warehouse automation over the next five years as it provides lower costs and scalability improvements.
About 350 workers at the distribution centre have been locked out after they went on strike to push for higher wages and rights to more redundancy pay when the site shuts down.
Data collected by Australian Catholic University researcher Tom Barnes for the United Workers Union, shows the prospects for warehouse workers who lose jobs to automation are not good.
A survey of former workers from Woolworths’ Hume distribution centre in Melbourne, which closed at the end of 2019, shows about a third were still unemployed in August this year.
Those who did find work suffered a significant fall in their wages. Compared to the shutdown of Australian car manufacturing, the outcomes are just as bad.
The union decided to go on strike in November and the lockout is set to run until February 11.