Thousands of truck drivers will strike for 24 hours this Friday after Toll refused to back down on its proposals to cut overtime and use cheaper contractors.
In a media statement released today, the Transport Workers Union said it made an 11th hour appeal 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.
On Thursday, workers voted 94 per cent 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.
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,” said Kaine.
“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.”
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.”
A further 6000 transport workers are due to vote on strike action at StarTrack and FedEx this week and next.
The union added that strike action has never and will never disrupt medical supplies or vaccines.
Toll has been approached for comment.
UPDATE – 1.35pm
Toll is disappointed the union is threatening industrial action in the middle of a global pandemic, a media statement reads.
Alan Beacham, president, Global Express, said: “It is unfortunate we’ve arrived at this point. Threatening industrial action at a time when our country is in the middle of a global pandemic is playing politics with people’s lives and jobs.”
In order to take any industrial action, the TWU needs to provide Toll with three-day’s notice, he added.
“As one of the country’s biggest transport companies, we are well used to managing disruptions to our operations, from bushfires to floods to a global pandemic. We can assure customers their goods will be transported during any potential industrial action,” Beacham said.
While TWU members, and only union members, are entitled to take industrial action, no employee can be forced to participate in any industrial action undertaken by the union, the statement added.
“Under the Fair Work Act it is illegal for Toll to pay employees for any industrial action they may take. Unlike TWU officials, whose wages don’t get docked, employees will lose money if they take industrial action.
“Toll trucks carry vital medical supplies, including Covid-19 vaccines. Industrial action risks disrupting that important supply chain, which could result in terrible consequences for medical staff and patients.”
Beacham said he agrees with the union that employees deserve a pay rise.
“We’ve put a generous offer on the table and are committed to further discussion.
“Industrial action only benefits the TWU, who like to show off in front of their union mates. It hurts employees and hurts our business. Let’s stop wasting time, get back to the negotiating table and sign this deal.”