The battle between the TWU and transport giant Toll has ramped up this week, with the union calling a 24 hour strike for thousands of truck drivers this Friday after Toll refused to withdraw its attack on jobs, rights and entitlements at crisis talks this week.
The TWU said it again appealed to Toll to provide workers with job security provisions and abandon plans to “engage an underclass of lower paid truck drivers”.
The Union claims that Toll refused to budge, which it says has triggered mass strikes that will disrupt food and fuel supplies this weekend.
The Union says that 94 per cent of workers voted in favour of taking action to fight for their jobs and it says that the successful ballot gives around 7000 transport workers protection under the Fair Work Act to walk off the job.
In response, Toll claims its pay and conditions are “at the top of our sector” and that workers will “still have the best EBA once these negotiations are concluded”.
Toll says that it has encouraged employees not to take part in the planned strike .
“Toll trucks carry vital medical supplies, including COVID-19 vaccines.,” a statement from Toll said.
“Industrial action risks disrupting that important supply chain, which could result in terrible consequences for medical staff and patients,” it added.
“But 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.”
The TWU says that in in a bid to compete with exploitative business models like AmazonFlex, Toll aims to drive down labour costs by scrapping overtime entitlements and engaging outside drivers on minimal pay and with fewer rights.
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. 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,” Kaine added.
“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,” he said.
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,” he said.
The Union says that attacks on job security are widespread in the transport industry, with a further 6,000 transport workers due to vote on strike action at StarTrack and FedEx this week and next.
TWU says its strike action has never and will not disrupt medical supplies or vaccines.