Contributed from Victoria
Around 7,000 truck drivers working for Tool, the giant American owned logistics company, are striking today. The members of the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) are fighting for their jobs. The matter has escalated during negotiations for a new enterprise agreement.
Toll wants to use contract casual drivers on lower wages and cut overtime payments for permanent drivers. Wages are currently only $27.53 an hour. Contracting the causal drivers is to be handed to a labour hire company called Allegro.
The devaluation of wages has already brought about dependency on overtime, and pressure to meet shrinking deadlines has been escalating. This is having an impact on the health of drivers. Toll’s demands will make this worse.
Ninety four percent of the drivers voted to take industrial action.
Today’s nationwide strike will cause some shortages. Toll operates for many bigger retail companies, including Woolworths and Amazon. It gets petrol to service stations and more.
National union secretary Michael Kaine said, “Over the last year, truckies worked harder than ever and delayed negotiations to assist Toll while the effect on the economy played out. During that time, profits have skyrocketed at the wealthy clients whose goods drivers have been transporting.
“They are furious that demand has soared, but transport contracts are squeezed, and exploitative gig economy models are expanding in transport such as AmazonFlex, forcing workers to suffer through degraded jobs.”
National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union Michael Kaine
The transport company’s response has been to express its disappointment and accuse the drivers and union of making life harder for Australians suffering from the impact of Covid. Use of this cheap shot as a cover to exploit its workforce has been condemned. Truck drivers are essential workers who have been putting themselves at risk. They deserve respect and to be treated fairly. No one should condemn them for wanting to protect their jobs.
Toll has yet shown no sign of shifting from its hard line stance.
Kaine said, “The agreement proposed by Toll will lower standards in an industry already in crisis. Drivers know all too well what happens when conditions and pay are dragged down in transport: stressed, chronically fatigued drivers are forced to work long hours, speed and skip rest breaks resulting in deaths and injuries on our roads.
“Toll workers are taking this stance for themselves and their families but also for safety across the industry. We should be lifting standards in Australia’s deadliest industry, not pulling them down.”
Other unions are giving this group of workers their support. Their battle is part of everyone’s battle to save existing jobs from the push for casualisation to cut down wages.
The Toll need the backing of the wider community. Pulling down wages ultimately affects us all.