Logistics giant Toll has criticised a nationwide strike by over 7,000 truck drivers over a pay dispute, saying the Transport Worker’s Union was not interested in achieving an outcome through negotiations.
Truckies will strike for 24 hours on Friday, which could have a flow-on effect on Australia’s food and petrol supply chains.
The action is separate from another planned potential protest involving Australian truck drivers against COVID restrictions supposed to occur on Aug. 31.
Alan Beacham, president of Toll’s Global Express business, said in a statement, “Negotiations are supposed to be two sides coming together to work out their differences. To present what each side wants and then negotiate—actually compromise—until an agreement is reached.”
“Unfortunately, only Toll is making any effort to compromise in these negotiations. The union has shown little compromise. They continue to present a list of demands that hurt the company and make jobs less secure,” he said.
Toll pointed to a May statement by the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) saying, “You are about to face a winter of discontent, followed by a spring offensive,” as proof that the current strike was planned while negotiations were ongoing.
The TWU threatened the strike in July saying it would “cripple food and fuel supplies across Australia” after claiming negotiations with Toll had broken down.
The union accused Toll of proposing an agreement that would involve “slashing pay and conditions” so the company could compete with major retailers—like Amazon Flex—with lower rates. Toll has strenuously denied such claims.
“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 earlier this week.
“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.”
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Michele O’Neill said the truck drivers were fighting against the “Uberisation” of the industry.
“Wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies are raking in billions whilst relentlessly trying to undercut the trucking workforce that continues to risk their lives to keep this country functioning during the pandemic,” O’Neill said in a statement.
The ACTU said the strike action mirrored issues in the entire trucking industry with logistics companies like Bevchain, Linfox, Startrack, and FedEx outsourcing drivers.
Toll said around 4,000 of its employees were eligible for the action under Australian law, not the 7,000 earmarked by the TWU. The company also maintained that certain employees were pressured to join the action.
Toll has 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 Amazon Flex. The shift has seen Toll hire a new segment of workers with different pay structures from existing truck drivers.