- The Guardian
- Issue #1960
The Transport Workers’ Union will today announce action in the coming months against some of the biggest global retailers Amazon, Apple and Aldi, as well as domestic brands IGA, Kmart and Bunnings in a bid to make trucking safer and fairer.
The union is serving claims on over fifty major retailers warning of their responsibility to ensure that they are paying transport operators enough to guarantee that their goods are being delivered safely. The plan for action and protests comes as enterprise agreements for thousands of transport workers expire in the coming months, with operators already revealing they can’t meet modest pay claims because of the squeeze by retailers.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine at a major speech at TWU National Council in Darwin will outline the action, stating lifting standards and saving lives is at the heart of the plan.
“There are far too many truck crash deaths where fatigue, faulty brakes, loads not strapped down properly and even stimulants to stay awake are a factor. At the heart of this is an industry on its knees because the major retailers at the top continually squeeze transport operators and drivers to the point that safety is thrown out the window. Retailers like Amazon and Aldi can boast about big profits but Australians are dying because of it and we won’t cop it anymore,” he said ahead of the address.
“We will work with retailers which want to see change so that no transport worker in their supply chains feels the pressure to drive a faulty truck, speed, work long hours or skip their rest breaks. But for those who are not interested in addressing the slaughter on our roads and which refuse to accept their role, workers across transport operators will unite to take action, and we will not relent,” he said.
In the last five years, 885 people have died in truck crashes, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. In the same period, 183 transport workers have died on the job, the highest by far for any industry, according to Safe Work Australia.
Retail profits globally have boomed since the pandemic hit with Amazon last week announcing profits up 224 per cent to US$8 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.
Coles and the TWU signed a charter in December on standards in road transport and the gig economy. It involves a formal consultation process between the TWU and Coles to ensure an ongoing emphasis on safety and to establish mechanisms through which safety issues can be identified and addressed.
Aldi has refused similar engagement with transport workers. The wealthy retailer lost a Federal Court case in December aimed at silencing truck drivers speaking out about safety in its supply chain. The ruling followed evidence and testimony from drivers about being forced to work fatigued, being ridiculed and pushed out of their jobs for speaking out, not paid proper rates or super. Drivers have also spoken out about a lack of weighing systems to gauge when trucks are overloaded, of flooded and badly lit loading docks, of blocked fire exits and rotten meat left lying around.
The TWU is also seeking legislative change to lift standards in road transport, including the gig economy, in the form of an independent tribunal with the powers to investigate risks to safety and make binding orders addressing them.