Australia’s national food and petrol supply could be affected as thousands of truck drivers agreed to strike on Aug. 27 over a pay dispute with logistics giant Toll.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) will follow through on its July threat to “cripple food and fuel supplies across Australia” after a successful vote saw 97 percent of its 7,000 members agree to strike action.
Truckies, under the protection of the Fair Work Act, will implement a 24-hour strike and likely affect supply chains. The dispute centres on a newly proposed enterprise agreement that comes as Toll finalises the sale of its Global Express business to fund manager Allegro.
The action is separate from another planned protest involving Australian truck drivers against COVID restrictions supposed to occur on Aug. 31.
“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,” Michael Kaine, TWU national secretary, said in a statement.
“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.”
However, Toll has denied claims of cutting worker pay or benefits. In fact, the new agreement under Allegro will preserve many existing conditions and include an additional $750 lump sum, and wage increases of 1.5 percent in 2021 and 1.75 percent in 2022.
Toll has also been looking to expand into the eCommerce and business-to-consumer sector—which has seen considerable growth in recent years—to compete with casual delivery services such as AmazonFlex and will offer this segment of workers a different pay structure from the existing logistics business.
Regarding the strike action, a Toll spokesperson said it was “disappointed” that the TWU would threaten strike action in the middle of a pandemic.
“One thing we and the union do agree on, our employees deserve a pay rise,” he said. “We’ve put a generous offer on the table and are committed to further discussion.”
“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,” Alan Beacham, the Global Express division president, said in a statement.
“We can assure customers their goods will be transported during any potential industrial action.”