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Woolies to build new hi-tech DCs in south-west Sydney

Woolworths is planning to build two new automated grocery distribution centres in the Moorebank Logistics Park in south-west Sydney.

The centres, which are on track to open in 2023 and 2024, will replace existing DC’s in Minchinbury, Yennora and Mulgrave, which are expected to close by 2025.

Qube will invest $420-$460 million in construction of the facilities over the next two years, with Woolworths investing $700-$780 million in the fit out and technology for the two centres over the next four years.

This announcement represents a major step in harnessing the power of world-leading technology to deliver a wide range of supply chain benefits, for businesses and consumers alike,” said ALC CEO Kirk Coningham.

“ALC has been a long-time advocate for the development of the Moorebank Logistics Park and its direct rail connection to Port Botany. This allows more freight to be moved via rail, helping to alleviate road congestion, which in turn delivers environmental benefits through reduced emissions.

“As we have witnessed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, providing logistics companies and their customers with the ability to make more efficient deliveries is critical.”

“These new facilities will help to achieve that objective by deploying proven, cutting-edge technology that allows for faster resupply of stores while also requiring less manual handling of freight, thereby reducing safety risks.”

The direct rail access to Port Botany will provide strategic benefits for Woolworths’ transport network and help remove at least 26,000 of its truck movements from NSW roads each year, said a media release from Qube.

Qube Managing Director Maurice James said Woolworths’ long-term commitment will reinforce the commercial appeal of this nationally important infrastructure and freight project.

“The benefits of railing containers direct from Port Botany to a terminal co-located with warehousing across a site the size of the Sydney CBD will deliver Woolworths time and cost efficiencies,” he said.

“Our project team is looking forward to working with the Woolworths team in delivering an optimal solution for their operations.”

Sky News reports that there would be significant redundancies as a result of the DC changes, costing about $176 million in payouts.

Woolworths said it would look to offer staff redeployment opportunities where possible, and would provide a range of support and career transition services to staff before the closure of the three existing sites.

TWU NSW Branch Secretary Richard Olsen said the site closures will come as a blow for workers at the sites but for those who can’t be redeployed to the Moorebank site their skills will transfer to other parts of the industry.

“It is not an easy thing for workers to hear that in five years time their place of work will no longer exist. But the TWU stands ready to help workers move on and use their skills and experience in other roles. The move towards automation in transport is closing down some areas of work but opening up others as the overall demand is expanding. In NSW there will be redeployment for some workers to Moorebank and, through the supply chain charter we have with Woolworths, we will be working with them to ensure safety and fairness in the new facilities for all transport workers,” said Mr Olsen.

“It’s tough for workers to hear that there is a threat to their jobs at a time of uncertainty like this but we have time to prepare for these site closures. Our union has a deep understanding of the transport supply chain and can assist workers in moving on to other sectors. We will be working hard to help workers move into other logistics sectors in the transport supply chain,” he added.

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