National Toll truckies to strike Friday as crisis talks collapse

Transport Workers' Union

Thousands of truck drivers will strike for 24 hours this Friday after Toll refused to withdraw its attack on jobs, rights and entitlements at crisis talks today.

The TWU again appealed to Toll to provide workers with job security provisions and abandon plans to engage an underclass of lower paid truck drivers, but Toll refused to budge, triggering mass strikes and disrupting food and fuel supplies this weekend.

On Thursday, workers voted 94% in favour of taking action to fight for their jobs. The successful ballot gives around 7000 transport workers protection under the Fair Work Act to walk off the job.

In a bid to compete with exploitative business models like AmazonFlex, Toll aims to drive down labour costs by scrapping overtime entitlements and engaging outside drivers on minimal pay and with fewer rights.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said it is disappointing Toll is forging ahead with its attack on jobs, leaving workers no choice but to withdraw their labour after months of failed talks.

“Toll workers have been forced to take the last resort option to go on strike this week because their jobs are being smashed. To do nothing would be to wait like sitting ducks for the jobs they’ve skilfully done for decades to be given away to the lowest common denominator. If workers had accepted this today, their jobs could have been contracted out moments after signing on the dotted line.

“It is an abomination that billionaire retailers like Amazon are smashing profit records while ripping off transport supply chains and crushing the jobs of the truck drivers who’ve risked the health of their families to deliver parcels and keep shelves stocked.

“Toll workers need guarantees that they won’t be sliced and diced Qantas-style and replaced by a cut-price, underemployed workforce. They don’t want to go on strike, especially during a pandemic, but they must because they have everything to lose,” he said.

TWU NSW/Qld Secretary and lead Toll negotiator Richard Olsen said Toll management made no effort to prevent strikes and refused to provide workers the job security they need.

“Toll’s behaviour is reprehensible. The transport giant is responsible for two crises at the same time: a cruel attack on good, safe transport jobs, and mass disruption to food and fuel supplies. Both of these disasters would have been fixed today if Toll had taken a reasonable approach and backed down on plans to trash jobs and drag down standards in Australia’s deadliest industry.

“While we implore Toll to fix this, none of it would be happening if the Federal Government had the right regulation in place to ensure transport supply chains are adequately funded by wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top,” he said.

Attacks on job security are widespread in the transport industry, with a further 6,000 transport workers due to vote on strike action at StarTrack and FedEx this week and next.

TWU strike action has never and will never disrupt medical supplies or vaccines.

Other key facts:

  • TWU NSW is suing Toll in the NSW Supreme Court for more than 5,000 late payments to owner truck drivers which could result in penalties of up to almost $52 million.
  • Toll recently reported a huge jump in revenues during the pandemic, $6.3 billion from $4.7 billion in 2020. But its transport costs also ballooned highlighting the tight margins transport companies are forced to operate under by major retailers, manufacturers and oil companies through their low-cost contracts. Worker wages and benefits at Toll decreased this year also while the company has been forced to write down the sale of Toll Express to Allegro.
  • Retailers globally have boomed since the pandemic hit with Amazon announcing profits up 224% to $US8 billion in just the last quarter. Bunnings’ revenue grew 24.4% to $9 billion in the six months to December 2020.
  • The TWU has filed claims on 50 retailers operating in Australia demanding that they lift standards to ensure fairness and safety in transport.
  • The Federal Government tore down an independent tribunal five years ago which was investigating risks to safety in road transport caused by a financial squeeze on transport by wealthy retailers like Amazon and Aldi. Since then, 205 truck drivers have been killed.

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