TWU accuses TNT of corporate thuggery as strike turns sour

The ongoing stoush between the TWU and TNT takes a turn for the worse, with claims protestors are being targeted

TWU accuses TNT of corporate thuggery as strike turns sour
TWU accuses TNT of corporate thuggery
By Brad Gardner | February 16, 2011

The bitter stoush between TNT and the Transport Workers Union continues to worsen, as the freight carrier stands accused of corporate thuggery.

Following its decision to launch a national 24-hour strike against TNT over stalled enterprise agreement negotiations, the TWU claims one of the company’s contractors purposely drove trucks into a crowd of union members.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon claims two men and a woman were injured when two heavy vehicles drove through the crowd and crashed into a car outside TNT’s Enfield site in NSW today.

"One of the drivers, working for a company contracted to TNT, told the protesters his boss told him ‘to run them over’," Sheldon claims.

"The police are currently pursuing the driver and company. However, allowing contracting companies to act like corporate thugs is deplorable."
TNT has strenuously denied the accusations and says police attended the scene where there were no reports of injuries.

"We strongly deny any allegation that we or our contractors have been involved in any acts of violence," TNT General Manager of Marketing and Communications Adrian Castorina says.

While legal action is an option, Castorina declined to say if TNT will pursue the union over its claims.

"I can’t comment on what the action might or might not be," he says.

He claims the TWU is trying to block vehicles access to the Enfield site, forcing TNT to ask for police assistance to keep operations going.

Maritime Union of Australia boss and the president of the International Transport Federation, Paddy Crumlin, has likened TNT to a third world industrial regime.

"These workers are exercising their democratic right to negotiate a just deal for them and their families, and allowing contracting companies to run over peaceful protesters should be condemned," Crumlin says.

The TWU has called on the ITF to pursue the matter with TNT’s management in Singapore.

ATN understands TNT is struggling to move freight from its depots in Queensland, with more than half of its pick-up and delivery workforce striking.

Union organisers are claiming freight clearance has fallen to as low as 20 percent, which is expected to have a significant effect on TNT’s supply chain services.

Castorina says most TNT sites are running at full capacity, with the company experiencing delays at a small number of depots.

In a move that will anger the TWU, the freight operator has called in more outside labour to counter the strike.

One of the TWU’s key demands under a new enterprise agreement is for the company to move away from outside labour and introduce site rates for all workers.

"Today we used, approved and vetted outside hire contractors," Castorina says.

The TWU is refusing a 12 percent pay rise for workers over three years because TNT will not lift superannuation beyond the government-mandated limit or commit to site rates and the establishment of a safe rates committee.

The TWU wants a 1 percent increase in superannuation each year until it reaches 15 percent.

"An extra one per cent superannuation for all employees and further increases over the coming years would allow members to retirement with dignity," Sheldon says.

A spokesman for the TWU says TNT’s position on establishing a safe rates committee does not go far enough.

"They’ve said consultation [about safe rates] but they’ve put nothing on a paper," a union spokesman says.

TWU Assistant National Secretary Michael Kaine says TNT has refused meetings on four occasions since January 28 to reach a compromise.

"The management of TNT is refusing to even talk about effective protections in job security and safety across the operations," he says.

In an open letter to TNT Managing Director Bob Black, Kaine bemoans the company’s decision to refuse meetings, saying it "is placing significant barriers in the path of reaching an agreement".

According to Black, the union’s demands will cost the company about $10 million annually.

"Such costs are not sustainable and would put pressure on TNT's viability within Australia," he says.

The TWU wants a CPI safety net in the new agreement to protect wages from inflation, which TNT has agreed to. However, Kaine has rejected TNT’s offer to extend TWU delegates’ leave from five to six days.

"One day above the Award minimum is not enough for delegates at a company such as TNT," Kaine writes.

He says members are concerned about job security due to TNT’s decision to increase its use of labour hire workers.

The TWU held stoppages last month to pressure the company into acceding to its demands. A series of four-hour stoppages were held across Australia, along with bans on loading and unloading vehicles used by contractors.

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