Hey Paul, take your money and go: Sheldon

TWU boss hits back against Toll, accusing it of enforcing "third-world employment standards" and outsourcing work to "dangerous providers"

Hey Paul, take your money and go: Sheldon
Hey Paul, take your money and go: Sheldon

By Ruza Zivkusic | October 27, 2011

The Transport Workers Union has hit back at Toll for criticising its involvement with the Teamsters union, which is embroiled in a dispute with the company over its US operations.

Amid a swingeing attack on the company and its outgoing Managing Director, Paul Little, TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon says his members feel a strong "affinity" with their Toll colleagues in the US.

Sheldon claims members are "disgusted with the opportunism of Toll management in enforcing third-world employment standards". The Teamsters union argues drivers working for Toll's wharf cartage operation in Los Angeles are denied access to restrooms and toilet facilites.

Little yesterday used his speech at the company’s annual general meeting to take a shot at Sheldon and the TWU for what he claims is a "misleading campaign" with the Teamsters.

Little, who will leave his post on January 1 next year with a $1.5 million cessation package, also criticised the TWU for trying to limit Toll’s use of sub-contractors. He says seasonal peaks and troughs require the use of contractors and Toll needs to pay them market rates.

"It appears Paul Little’s $1.5 million farewell payment hasn’t soothed his soul. I wonder whether his pay packet was ever exposed to ‘seasonal peaks and troughs’," Sheldon says.

"There comes a time when it is in everyone’s interest to retire. I think Paul has reached that time."

Sheldon also accused Toll of increasingly outsourcing work to "dangerous providers" which do not mandate decent safety conditions.

"The financial benefits of this safety strategy seem only to go one way – to senior executives," Sheldon says.

"The downside is drivers not returning home because their safety has been severely compromised. When they are maimed or worse, or an unsafe company goes bust, they don’t get the benefit of a farewell payment or a seat on the board. Toll calls this ‘flexibility’; TWU members call it diabolical."

Sheldon refers to Toll’s long-term relationship with Ruttley Freightlines, which ended in September this year.

"The TWU has notified Toll of the many dangerous practices employed by Ruttley Freightlines – a major Toll contractor for years," he says.

Ruttley Freightlines went into administration last week. The holding company for its vehicles, Kalae, was fined $290,000 and convicted earlier this year under chain of responsibility law for 84 overloading offences over a three-year period.

Sheldon claims Toll has ignored the union’s concerns and has continued to lower the bar by "embracing the offensive standards of work used for its US workforce".

"Australian Toll employees are horrified at the victimisation and lack of human respect for their US colleagues. They want to help and they also want to defeat any prospect of Little realising that kind of ‘flexibility’ in Australia," he says.

During his speech yesterday, Little blamed Sheldon of trying to "micro manage" Toll through seeking constraints on the company’s ability to use sub-contractors.

He says the TWU should focus on Toll competitors, which Little argues do not provide the same rates of pay and conditions as Toll.

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