Automation wipes out Woolworths’ jobs

Supermarket giant Woolworths has announced it will build two new automated grocery distribution centres, resulting in a number of redundancies.

While Woolworths did not say precisely how many roles would be affected by the site closures, which will take place over the next five years, it said the redundancies would cost about $176 million in payouts.

The new centres will be located south west of Sydney and are replacing three existing facilities, costing approximately $800 million to build over four years.


Up to 1350 roles will be made redundant according to CEO Brad Banducci, accounting for about 1% of the company’s workforce:

Leith van Onselen


  1. To anyone who says automation/technology will be devastating to the labour market I say, “Why didn’t you send me that message in person??”

    • frag outMEMBER

      You might want to differentiate between a market and the individual to avoid an apples vs oranges argument. The market doesn’t care about the participants, and the participants in 5-10-15years time will not be in the same position as the ~2000 impacted workers from a distribution centre, staring down the barrel of what…coding classes.

  2. So now I’m going to have to do my grocery shopping at the distribution centre?
    Big deal, it’s 4 years away and they will just replace the warehouse jobs with middle manager jobs, or innovation strategy jobs or agile integration specialists

    • Lord Winchester EntwhistleMEMBER

      Dear boy, you appear to have written their automation strategy! What other juicy tidbits can you share?

      • I work with these people. It takes them 2 years to develop a half baked, clunky App that no one uses until they offer 20% off your bill and even then some people said forget it, I will go to the checkout. They have huge swanky teams working on these pointless “strategies” in their open planed, loungeroom type, we work style environment with the ping pong table between two fern getting paid $150k plus a year trying to figure out how to kick-out the single mom or dad who needs to work overtime to get paid $50k.

        • Don’t forget the free digital lunches! They cost a lot more with the itemised Agile ingredients but no total column, ever!

          We pick the tasty Agile bits we’s likes and none of the ones we don’t like. We’re different don’t you know. After all who’s going to tell us how to Agile? The 50 year old CIO, I mean CDIO. Mmmmm… tasty. Beanbag time!

          • lol. What I’ve seen of Agile development consists of blokes who are up themselves having stand-up meetings followed by the usual undisciplined hacking that churns out a pile of brittle, poorly documented sh1te with a pretty user interface and not much else.

            That might work for grocery ordering apps, but not for major systems that can’t fail and where people’s lives are at stake. That requires Engineering, and it’s very hard and not nearly as exciting as having meetings standing up and writing nonsense specs on little cards and sprinting while thinking of an edgy name like Extreme Programming for the next flapdoodle methodology being touted by some idiot with a book contract.

            Don’t get me started.

          • When the going gets tough just sprint to the next employer! No accountability (ie. practical agile), c suite have been doing agile for decades.

  3. Won’t anybody think of the Diversity and Inclusion specialists who this will put out of work? And what about the corporate Trust and Safety committee members?

    • blacktwin997MEMBER

      Straight up, this. We actually had the head HR harpy on the intranet landing page today banging on about ‘Why COVID-19 is a great opportunity to accelerate our diversity and inclusion’. Never mind the societal rarefaction, palpable fear of outsiders etc.

      Best of luck with that, she must be some kind of quantum radar artificial moon railgun tiger dong guru with this calibre of hospital-strength wishful thinking. No wonder she made it to the top of the pile of human skulls that is corporate HR.

  4. The problem of technological improvement taking away jobs has been there for decades. Yet somehow, we create new jobs to fill the void.

    This myth that we won’t be able to re-allocate future workers to productive endeavours is wrong.

    Nevertheless, in this particular case, it’ll take a lot longer than 4 years. Just look how long it took them to do the same in Victoria…

    • frag outMEMBER

      It’s the current ones about to be jettisoned from the job market that tend to be ignored in arguments such as yours and that above. Their fate appears to have been sealed, like Holden workers etc. before them, and many manual skilled jobs ahead of them, that it’s not even discussed, a fait accompli. I guess there’s always Uber, until it’s fully automated.

  5. $176m divided by 1350 is $130k a head. Now given even the most generous public sector VR (NSW Govt “MEE” policy) caps out at 52 weeks service this is one of the reasons they are doing this – cost per FTE. Meanwhile the award rates keep rising and the real minimum wage (zero – what is paid to someone without a job) stays the same.

    They really should look at at UBI at some stage.

    • Jumping jack flash

      As automation takes over a UBI is essential to be able to grow debt and keep the economy functioning.
      Or they redefine the debt eligibility criteria not to include income, but I can’t see that happening.

      When I was finishing highschool back in the late 90’s there was some discussion about the “future” and it was acknowledged back then that automation was inevitable and taxation on the fully automated [manufacturing] companies would pay for a UBI-style income.

      Well, we kind of lost our way. We have no manufacturing, and companies don’t pay tax.

  6. Jumping jack flash

    For those displaced workers there is always the sweatshop kitchens of your local ethnic takeaway.

    As for me, I have positioned myself to take full advantage of this. I’m working on developing a system for automated grading of meat as I type.

    My client’s exact words: “I want the technology to be able to take any 16 year old [dropout] from the local highschool with no experience and put them in any position and make them productive.”

    I’m sure he meant 3rd world slave rather than 16 year old highschool dropout, but I think he was caught up in the moment and being all conscientious and inclusive. From what I see when I visit their processing floor, their workforce is basically made up of 90% SE Asian slaves.