Toll subbies face union scrutiny over driver conditions

Sub-contractors working for Toll face greater scrutiny under a policy giving the TWU access to wage and compliance records

Toll subbies face union scrutiny over driver conditions
Toll subbies face union scrutiny over driver conditions

By Brad Gardner November 1, 2011

Sub-contractors working for Toll could soon come under scrutiny from the Transport Workers Union as part of a policy targeting rogue trucking operations.

At a meeting late last week of union delegates and Toll management, TWU coordinator Graham Garrett pushed for Toll to begin auditing its sub-contractors to catch out any driving down rates and safety.

Under the enterprise agreement struck with Toll earlier this year, the TWU secured a clause which forces sub-contractors to declare compliance with agreements, employment conditions, taxes, superannuation obligations and fatigue management.

Known as a freight cartage agreement, the provision requires sub-contractors to hand over their records to be audited upon request from Toll, and the TWU will be permitted to comb through them.

"The priority is the audit forms because what’s happening in the transport industry is there’s people cutting corners left, right and centre to make ends meet," Garrett told ATN.

"If we think something is wrong we can go right through the process, and part of that due process may be asking for proof of records of their employees and what they are receiving."

Garrett says all Toll sub-contractors should have received notice about the freight cartage agreements, and those refusing to sign them will be banned from working for Toll.

Last week’s gathering of union and Toll officials was the inaugural meeting on the company’s use of sub-contractors. Meetings are scheduled to happen twice a year across the country to raise any grievances with outside hire.

Garrett says the freight cartage agreement is designed to make sure any company hauling Toll goods is operating legally.

"In the past it used to be by word of mouth and everyone accepted you did the right thing. Now it can be proven you have done the right thing by filling out these forms," he says.

The TWU managed to get the clause inserted into its enterprise agreements with all major trucking players, such as Linfox and TNT.

"I believe there was one company in relation to one of the majors [which] refused to sign. He said, ‘Privacy, I don’t have to divulge that information’. And he’s no longer working with them," Garrett says.

He says the onus is also on Toll to make sure its sub-contractors comply.

"They have got to make sure they are paying their sub-contractors enough so that their sub-contractor can pay their employees enough."

The agreement forces sub-contractors in NSW to pay their drivers the same rate Toll employees receive.

Those working for Toll outside of NSW must pay their drivers 7.5 percent above the applicable Award rate. The percentage increase can be phased in over three years, starting with 2.5 percent on July 1 this year, 5 percent in 2012 and 7.5 percent on January 1, 2013.

Toll must give the TWU, on a monthly basis, a list of the contractors it is using, the number of employees each one has and the type of work they will be doing.

The company is also limited in its use of owner-drivers and is required to ensure, wherever possible, any sub-contractor directly employs staff.

"If there are sub-contractors being used in preference to the company fleet, we can sit down and ask the reasons why and sit down as a committee to see if there is a better way to do things," Garrett says.

Furthermore, any incoming sub-contractor must go through an induction at a Toll site and give a TWU representative access to its employees for a maximum of 30 minutes.

Contractors will be given one week to rectify any breach discovered during the audit process.

Those which fail to do so will be blacklisted, while the cartage agreement expressly states any money owing to contractors can be withheld until they provide a statement declaring compliance with employment obligations.

However, any sub-contractors used on an ad hoc basis are not bound by the freight cartage agreement.

Likewise, the enterprise agreement states long distance operators (those travelling more than 500km) are exempt as long as Toll randomly audits them to ensure they comply with their Award obligations.

Toll Managing Director Paul Little last week labelled the enterprise agreement "a good outcome for the company and employees", but also accused the TWU of trying to constrain the company’s use of contractors.

"This level of union interference in operations threatens to undermine our productivity and success," Little said in a speech at Toll’s annual general meeting.

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

He accused the TWU of trying to "micro manage" Toll, adding that the union should focus its attention on the inferior pay and conditions offered by Toll’s competitors.

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