Truckies push for strike action at Toll – jobs under attack despite record supply chain profits

Transport Workers' Union

Thousands of truckies are pushing for strike action after Toll proposed a new workplace agreement which will obliterate decent jobs at the transport operator and drag down standards in Australia’s deadliest industry. Transport workers are angry that their jobs are being threatened after they’ve driven bumper profits to Toll’s wealthy clients like Amazon.

Talks broke down at a negotiation meeting on Wednesday between workers and Toll management, with drivers now filing an application to the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote to go on strike. The move will affect almost 7,000 Toll workers who are members of the TWU and would cripple food and fuel supplies across Australia.

Toll’s push for a substandard enterprise agreement is aimed at slashing pay and conditions in Toll yards to win work from wealthy retailers and manufacturers by offering low rates. The agreement threatens the job security and earning potential of workers by scrapping overtime entitlements, bringing in new workers on far worse pay and conditions, and attempting to remove job security protections which would allow good reliable Toll jobs to be contracted out to the lowest common denominator.

Following a successful ballot of workers, strike action will take place in the coming months.

“This is an outrageous attack on the jobs of hard-working truck drivers. Over the last year, truckies worked harder than ever and delayed negotiations to assist Toll while the effect on the economy played out. During that time, profits have skyrocketed at the wealthy clients whose goods drivers have been transporting. They are furious that demand has soared, but transport contracts are squeezed and exploitative gig economy models are expanding in transport such as AmazonFlex, forcing workers to suffer through degraded jobs,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.

“The agreement proposed by Toll will lower standards in an industry already in crisis. Drivers know all too well what happens when conditions and pay are dragged down in transport: stressed, chronically fatigued drivers are forced to work long hours, speed and skip rest breaks resulting in deaths and injuries on our roads. Toll workers are taking this stance for themselves and their families but also for safety across the industry. We should be lifting standards in Australia’s deadliest industry, not pulling them down,” Kaine added.

TWU NSW Branch Secretary and lead Toll negotiator Richard Olsen said workers are disappointed that Toll has joined the race to the bottom in transport.

“Loyal workers have built high standards at Toll over decades, including through the last 18 months of sustained Christmas-level demand. We know that Toll’s clients like Amazon have made multibillion-dollar profits throughout the pandemic. The transport workers who’ve made that happen should be rewarded but instead their jobs and earnings are under threat. Toll workers take pride in their jobs and enjoy supplying our communities with essential goods. They do not take a decision to go on strike lightly, but Toll management has left them no choice but to pursue this,” Olsen said.

Toll wants to employ all new drivers as part-time workers on rates just above the award minimum and super no more than the national guarantee of 10%. This is a direct attack on existing jobs and will result in workers being pushed out or forced onto far worse conditions.

Other attacks on conditions by Toll include:

  • Outsourcing work and undermining clauses in the current agreement to engage Toll employees before outside hire
  • A refusal to ensure outsourced contractors are paying their drivers the same wages as Toll workers, despite this being a clause in successive Toll agreements
  • Part-time workers to lose overtime entitlements with additional work up to 38 hours a week to be paid at ordinary rates, in violation of the award standards
  • A refusal to sign a deed of transfer ensuring that workers pay and conditions will be guaranteed at Allegro, rather than being forced to negotiate again with worse outcomes

In the five years to 2020, 885 people died in truck crashes, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics.

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. Apple said its profits have more than doubled to US$23.6 billion while Aldi’s annual revenue in 2019 was $US109 billion.

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 and which was mandated to hold companies like Amazon and Aldi to account over poor safety standards that result from their financial squeeze on transport operators and drivers.

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization/author(s)and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.