These companies must start taking responsibility

On Tuesday, March 7, hundreds of transport workers around the country marched on Aldi stores, part of a nationwide campaign that’s taking the fight for a fairer industry to wealthy supply chain clients. 

We served Aldi, along with 39 other of the largest and wealthiest retailers, manufacturers and agricultural companies, with a claim to make their supply chains safer, fairer and more sustainable.

That’s because clients at the top of the supply chain need to step up.

The devastating collapse of Scott’s Refrigerated Logistics, Australia’s largest cold chain operator, has shown us that action cannot wait. This industry cannot wait. Right now, other drivers and operators are looking on, many of them on similarly razor-thin margins. Scott’s is not the first. It will not be the last unless there is urgent action.

What we’ve heard from administrators is that the company ceasing operations can be attributed to “uncommercial customer arrangements”. What we already knew to be true has been illustrated here in black and white: Scott’s has become yet another casualty of greedy clients raking in profits while squeezing transport contracts dry. 

Transport workers have had enough of it. Hundreds of them joined the rallies at Aldi stores around the country only recently. In NSW they hand-delivered the claim to the retailer, and they’ll be back again if the company doesn’t take action to raise standards in its supply chains. They’ll be back because they have no choice: their industry is on a dark downward spiral and it got there because of the greed of wealthy companies like Aldi.

Aldi has history here. The company has proven itself to be against its workers, demonstrated clearly when it attempted to silence truckies speaking out on safety in their supply chain – a play that saw Aldi lose not one, but two cases in the Federal Court. Aldi has refused to sign a charter with the TWU on supply chain accountability, while Coles and Woolworths both came to the table. 

The claim on Aldi and the other top clients is a call for fairness, safety and sustainability in supply chains. These companies must start taking responsibility, and we’re calling on them to sign up to six core principles: safety and fairness, transparency, collective voice, education and consultation, lifting standards, and disaster planning. 

It’s a sobering realisation that among the 40 companies to receive the claim, Scott’s was in the supply chain of 22. Based on the latest information, the 40 clients boast more than $160 billion in revenue a year – all the while, drivers and operators are under immense financial stress, piling on the pressure to delay maintenance, speed and drive fatigued to make ends meet. 

This industry is already the deadliest in Australia. Over 50 have died on our roads in truck crashes. 13 of them truck drivers. A single death on our roads is too many – this is carnage. The destructive competition that’s driving down standards and destroying lives must end, and clients like Aldi can act right now to make that happen.

The federal government has committed to delivering much-needed transport reform that will set fair, safe and sustainable standards in the industry, and we urge Federal Parliament to back in those reforms once introduced. But the collapse of Scott’s is yet another example of just how urgent this reform is. Clients must act now to lift standards in their supply chains and save lives and businesses.

  • Richard Olsen is TWU NSW/QLD state secretary

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