The Transport Workers Union is suing Toll for almost $52 million in the NSW Supreme Court for breaching its contracted payment terms with owner drivers on more than 5000 occasions during the pandemic Christmas period.
The case comes as 7,000 Toll employees begin voting on whether to go on strike over Toll’s proposed enterprise agreement, which would destroy decent jobs at the transport operator. Toll aims to bring in new workers and outside hire on up to 30% less pay and conditions, threatening the jobs and earnings of the current workforce.
The case, which will be heard in early September, could see Toll pay penalties of up to $10,000 for each of the 5,187 late payments it made to almost 250 owner drivers.
Delayed payments cause owner drivers to struggle with the costs of running their trucks. Evidence shows an inexplicable link between pay and safety, whereby sweated truck drivers are pressured to speed, work long hours and delay maintenance on their trucks to make ends meet.
TWU NSW State Secretary Richard Olsen said: “Over the last year, Toll’s treatment of hardworking truck drivers has been an utter disgrace. While transport workers pulled in record profits for retailers like Amazon and Bunnings whose goods they transport, they’ve faced a threat to their own income.
“First, workers were forced to bear the brunt of two cyber attacks, then owner drivers endured months of late payments during the high intensity Christmas period. At the same time, Toll was cooking up a plan to obliterate the decent jobs of its employees.
“Workers are understandably furious. While the TWU kicks off a case over more than 5,000 breaches to payment terms with owner drivers, another 7,000 employees have begun voting on strikes to demand job security.
“Owner-drivers run small businesses – usually just one person with one truck. They operate on wafer-thin margins, yet in good faith they agreed to extend their payment terms with Toll for six months. Once that time was up, Toll spat in their face and refused to go back to paying them weekly as per their contracted terms.
“This appalling treatment of workers while those at the top of transport supply chains reap multibillion dollar profits highlights the urgency for the Federal Government to step up and regulate Australia’s deadliest industry.”
In the five years to 2020, 885 people died in truck crashes, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics.
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. Apple said its profits have more than doubled to US$23.6 billion while Aldi’s annual revenue in 2019 was $US109 billion. Bunnings’ revenue grew 24.4% to $9 billion in the six months to December 2020.
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