Teamsters Union takes complaints to Toll's doorstep

The Teamsters union turns up at Toll's AGM to complain about the working conditions of its US-based truck drivers

By Ruza Zivkusic | October 26, 2011

Representatives from the US Teamsters union made a surprise visit at Toll’s annual general meeting today to complain about the working conditions of truck drivers in California.

Working together with the Transport Workers Union, a spokesman complained about a lack of toilet facilities, running water and restrooms at Toll subsidiary FMI.

"We are hoping we can resolve this and work together and have a cooperative relationship because Toll is an iconic brand here in Australia but it’s not the kind of brand in US," the spokesman says.

The Teamsters sought a meeting with retiring Managing Director Paul Little and his replacement Brian Kruger. Little was aware of the union’s presence at the AGM, but says the TWU’s interest in Toll’s US operations is "a puzzling move".

He made the Teamsters concerns known to shareholders, saying it is important they are aware of the dispute currently plaguing FMI.

Little also used his final speech as Toll’s managing director to take a shot at the TWU, which has involved itself in the company’s dispute with the Teamsters.

Little says TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon should be focusing his attention on Toll’s Australian competitors instead.

"Given the significant opportunities the Toll Group has provided thousands of TWU members in Australia, it is deeply disturbing that they are spending their time and members’ funds attacking us rather than focusing on our competitors in Australia who do not meet our standards," he says.

Referring to recent enterprise bargaining negotiations, Little also accused Sheldon of trying to limit Toll’s flexibility on the use of owner-drivers.

"This level of union interference in operations threatens to undermine our productivity and success," he says.

"Over the years we have added tens of thousands of Australian employees and they do a great job. But the seasonal peaks and throughs require the use of contractors and we need to pay the market rates."

Former TWU official and now Labor Senator Glenn Sterle last month used parliamentary proceedings to chastise Toll over its US operations.

"Literally, the working conditions it imposes on workers are nothing short of disgraceful," Sterle claimed.

FMI is a division of Summit Logistics, which Toll took over last year. Little says the business employs around 75 wharf cartage drivers around the ports of Los Angeles.

He says the TWU is running a "misleading campaign with the Teamsters in the US".

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