Scott’s collapse is a dire warning

Recently 1500 workers around the country received the devastating news that Scott’s Refrigerated Logistics, Australia’s largest cold chain operator, will cease operations after it failed to find a buyer.

There’s no direct competitor to Scott’s, which delivers to all major supermarkets, and the news spells certain supply chain chaos. You can’t have 500 trucks, 1000 trailers and 1500 workers stop operations with no impact.

Obviously, this is incredibly distressing for the workers around the country who are now without a job.  

The TWU is standing behind those workers, and we’re in the process of talking to other major operators including Global Express, Linfox, ACFS, Ron Finemore Transport and FBT Transwest to maximise redeployment opportunities wherever we can in NSW and around the country. We’re also working to make sure workers receive the entitlements they’re owed.

The collapse of Scott’s will have ripple effects around NSW and across the country, and it’s a tragedy that doubles as a dire warning: transport is in crisis, and it’s being fuelled by the wealthy companies at the top of the supply chain. 

In Scott’s case, the company was relying on an array of high-leverage finance and loan companies to stay afloat. It was surviving, like many other operators, on razor-thin margins. It’s an industry-wide supply chain crisis caused by wealthy clients like Aldi squeezing transport contracts and profiting off those tight margins, while drivers and operators are pushed to the brink.

In the 2021-2022 financial year, almost 200 companies in the transport sector became insolvent, while their clients at the top of the supply chain have made mammoth profits.

In transport, Australia’s deadliest industry, financial difficulties are transformed into huge safety risks on our roads, with drivers pressured to work longer, harder and faster to make ends meet. Already in 2023, 41 people have lost their lives on Australian roads, nine of them truck drivers.

Accountability for safety in such a dangerous industry has to come from the top – from those wealthy clients squeezing transport contracts. 

Wooloworths and Coles have signed charters with the TWU on supply chain transparency, fairness and safety. Aldi, whose profit margins are much higher than its competitors, refuses to do the same. 

Instead, it’s tried to silence truckies speaking out on safety in the Federal Court – but lost, twice.

Transport needs reform. It needs it urgently.

Scott’s collapse won’t just impact the 1500 workers who are now tragically without a job – it will have effects throughout supply chains and for the average shopper expecting groceries to be on shelves. It’s also a warning that without change, there will be more mayhem because of profit-hungry clients like Aldi.

Wealthy companies must be made accountable for the strain they impose upon operators and transport workers. They must take responsibility for safety, fairness and sustainability throughout their supply chains. 

It’s time to stop the practice of giving out work to the cheapest bidder – safety must be the cornerstone of transport contracts.

Last year the federal government committed to crucial reform that would see enforceable minimum standards set across the transport industry. 

Federal Parliament must now pass those reforms to make transport work fairer, safer and more sustainable for all participants – and to prevent more tales like Scott’s collapse.

  • Richard Olsen is the TWU NSW/QLD State Secretary

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