K&S and TWU to go to court in June

A court will determine next month if K&S can deduct wages from drivers who negligently damage trucks

By Brad Gardner | May 7, 2010

The stoush involving transport carrier K&S Freighters over whether it can charge truck drivers for negligently damaging vehicles is due to go to court next month.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is fighting to overturn the company’s policy in a move that may set a precedent for all transport operators.

A legal representative for the TWU says the matter is scheduled for a three-day hearing in the NSW Federal Court from June 7.

ATN understands the union is concerned over how the process is governed, particularly how negligence is determined and if the policy is slotted into contracts to ensure employees are aware of it.

TWU Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon likens K&S’ actions as the same as a bank deducting pay from an employee for breaking a computer or chair.

"It is totally unreasonable," Sheldon says.

He is concerned K&S’ policy will set a precedent for other industries if it is allowed to stand.

A spokesman for the TWU previously told ATN a company should not be able to take an employee’s pay and that insurance should cover any damage to equipment.

But K&S Managing Director Legh Winser says the operator is doing nothing wrong.

"To get the facts correct - it is legal to have employees pay for negligent damage. It is not legal to have them pay for third party damage," Winser says.

He says K&S' actions have helped end a culture of carelessness toward company property. Winser says damaged equipment causes extensive downtime and lost productivity.

"Cleary a driver cannot pay for a large accident as they would not have the financial capability to do so but for a very clearly defined and unquestionable negligent accident we are requesting the driver to pay," he says.

Winser says the company’s approach has slashed its incident and accident rate by 60 percent, a figure he adds that the TWU "found extremely difficult to dispute".

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