Around 7,000 Toll truck drivers across Australia are refusing to go to work today to protest job insecurity and increasing casualisation, sparking concerns of food and medical supply shortages.
Truckies are striking on Friday against an agreement proposed by Toll that could see work offered to casual or short-term contracted workers on lower pay before permanent employees, in what unions are describing as an ‘Uberisation’ of the industry.
“Federal Government inaction has empowered the likes of Amazon and Uber to introduce extreme exploitation into our economy which is bringing the transport industry to its knees,” said Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine.
“Transport workers have had no choice but to take the fight into their own hands by bravely taking industrial action to fight for their futures.”
Some supermarket disruption anticipated
Both the union and Toll have indicated that contingency measures have been put in place to ensure the industrial action is not expected to affect supermarket or medical supplies.
However, a video by a man claiming to be a truck driver has surfaced on social media warning Australians to stock up on groceries “for the next week or two” amid the strikes.
“It’s on. The truckies are doing it,” the man in the video states.
“The truckies are going to shut down the country; what that means is you need to go shopping now, get what you can for the next week or two, load your fridge, freezers.”
Yahoo Finance understands that Toll drivers predominantly service stores in Woolworths’ Greater Sydney metropolitan regions, including the Central Coast, Illawarra and the Blue Mountains.
“Our teams will do the very best they can to navigate the challenges of the next 24 hours and minimise the disruption to our customers from this industrial action,” a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.
Beacham said Toll would manage the planned industrial action.
“We’ll manage this as well and we’ve already put in place contingency plans to ensure our customers receive their goods.”
Senate report urges fairer rules for transport industry
A Senate report tabled to Parliament last night made six recommendations to the Federal Government, including that an independent body be set up to establish and enforce standards across the industry around pay and ban “unsafe” contracting practices.
The Transport Workers Union is urging the Federal Government to adopt all of the recommendations, which they said would “eliminate gig economy models of exploitation”.
According to the Transport Workers Union, a further 6,000 workers will vote on strikes at StarTrack and FedEx across this and next week.
More than 200 truck drivers and nearly 1,000 people have died as a result of truck crashes since the Morrison Government abolished the road safety tribunal in 2016, Kaine said, warning that these statistics would likely get worse if current contracting practices were allowed to continue.
“Deaths will rise exponentially if reliable transport jobs are outsourced to the lowest bidder,” Kaine said.
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil described the truck driving sector as “Australia’s deadliest industry”.
“The Morrison Government needs to step up and ensure that workers are protected and that the use of short-term contracts and casual employment are regulated,” she said.
“These workers have literally helped carry Australia through the pandemic. They have worked relentless hours and had their own health put at risk.
“They should be appreciated and respected, not forced to take strike action.”
‘Toll will not be bullied’
In a statement, Toll Global Express president Alan Beacham said that it was TWU that was refusing to come to the table to continue discussions.
“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,” Beacham said in a statement.
The union was showing “little compromise”, he added.
“They continue to present a list of demands that hurt the company and make jobs less secure.”
The statement said the company would “not be bullied by the union” and that TWU was striking against Toll as the “market leader” in order to “bully competitors”.