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23 August, 2021

Poised to strike: TOLL under pressure to provide job security

The TWU is appealing to Toll to bring a reasonable solution to the table as the company and the union meet for crisis talks in an attempt to avert mass disruption of food and fuel supplies in coming days.

The TWU is appealing to Toll to bring a reasonable solution to the table as the company and the union meet for crisis talks in an attempt to avert mass disruption of food and fuel supplies in coming days.


On Thursday, the worker ballot closed with an emphatic result of 94% voting for the right to take protected industrial action to fight for job security. The successful ballot gives almost 7000 transport workers protection to walk off the job after providing Toll with three days’ notice.


The ball is now in Toll’s court. The transport giant knows that it can avoid disruption to supply chains if it scraps plans to smash workers’ earnings, entitlements and jobs. 


The strong vote result from thousands of workers prompted Toll to abandon its attempt to bring in new employees on 30% lower pay and super, but jobs and wages are still threatened by other provisions which allow Toll to outsource work to the lowest bidder.


In a bid to compete with the likes of gig-style 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 workers are urging Toll to take a fair approach and prevent the strike.


“Toll must seize its opportunity at negotiations on Monday to back down from its assault on jobs and prevent mass disruption to supplies and the economy. Workers have sent a strong message with an emphatic vote to take action if that is what it takes to rescue their jobs from the scrap heap so they can support their families.


“Truck drivers face the reality of Australia’s deadliest industry every day. They know the pressure can be fatal when pay and conditions are degraded. Toll has historically understood this and led the way in safe standards, which makes this approach all the more devastating.


“It is a clear indication of the crisis in trucking when billionaire retailers like Amazon are smashing profit records while the truck drivers transporting their goods face the sack.


“Toll must guarantee its workforce won’t be sliced and diced Qantas-style and replaced by low paid, underemployed labour hire. Toll must end this battle for the sake of workers, their families and our communities which rely on truck drivers to safely share the roads and keep our shelves stocked,” he said.


TWU NSW/Qld Secretary and lead Toll negotiator Richard Olsen said Toll workers are prepared to go the distance to protect their jobs.


“Toll workers have done everything they can to ward off this attack on their livelihoods. By standing strong they have pressured Toll to back down on plans to introduce a second rank of lower paid employees, but there is still much to be fixed. We urge Toll to see reason and act responsibly. The power is in the hands of the company to prevent widespread chaos in transport in the coming days and we urge them to do so.


“Strike action is a last resort option for workers which would not have been necessary if the Federal Government had the right regulation in place to ensure transport supply chains are adequately funded by cashed-up companies at the top,” he said.


Further evidence of the crisis in trucking is demonstrated by a further 6,000 transport workers across StarTrack and FedEx pushing for strikes over similar attacks to their job security. StarTrack workers will vote for the right to take action from Tuesday, while the Fair Work Commission is considering the application for a protected action ballot at FedEx. 


Other key facts:

·  TWU NSW is suing Toll in the NSW Supreme Court for more than 5,000 late payments to owner truck drivers which could result in penalties of up to almost $52 million.


·  Toll recently reported a huge jump in revenues during the pandemic, $6.3 billion from $4.7 billion in 2020. But its transport costs also ballooned highlighting the tight margins transport companies are forced to operate under by major retailers, manufacturers and oil companies through their low-cost contracts. Worker wages and benefits at Toll decreased this year also while the company has been forced to write down the sale of Toll Express to Allegro.

·  Retailers globally have boomed since the pandemic hit with Amazon announcing profits up 224% to $US8 billion in just the last quarter. Bunnings’ revenue grew 24.4% to $9 billion in the six months to December 2020.


·  The TWU has filed claims on 50 retailers operating in Australia demanding that they lift standards to ensure fairness and safety in transport.


·  The Federal Government tore down an independent tribunal five years ago which was investigating risks to safety in road transport caused by a financial squeeze on transport by wealthy retailers like Amazon and Aldi. Since then, 205 truck drivers have been killed.

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