Victory claimed as Toll rehires sacked truckies

Union and drivers mark a victory against Toll after company rehires some of the 26 drivers it sacked in late October

By Brad Gardner | December 1, 2011

Toll’s US-operation has rehired some of the 26 drivers it sacked in late October, marking a victory for the Teamsters union and drivers in their campaign against the company.

Amid a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) investigation into Toll’s workplace practices, the business’s wharf cartage operation in Los Angeles has called back 10 drivers to haul designer goods for it in the lead-up to Christmas.

The drivers filed unfair dismissal charges with the NLRB when they were shown the door, claiming management sacked them for campaigning for better work conditions and trying to get the Teamsters to bargain on their behalf.

Drivers and the Teamsters also staged a protest outside the Australia’s consulate in Los Angeles.

"Toll tried to scare us, but instead we stuck together and made them feel the consequences for being unjust," Eduardo Urrea, one of the reinstated drivers, says.

"It’s wonderful I can still give my family Christmas. Now we are fighting for the rest of our co-workers and our union."

Despite repeated denials from Toll, the union and the drivers accuse the company of enforcing discriminatory work conditions by banning drivers from using clean indoor bathroom, kitchen and rest facilities.

Drivers have been agitating for better conditions through signing petitions, staging community protests and donning Teamsters-badged T-shirts during work time.

Some of Toll’s most high-profile critics have been reinstated, including Jimmy Martinez and Karael Vallecillo who both told local news publication, La Opinion, they were being denied basic rights.

However, a spokeswoman for the Teamsters says Alberto Quiteno – the driver who flew to Australia to raise his concerns directly with Toll Managing Director Paul Little – has not been given his job back.

Quiteno, who also penned a letter to Little imploring him to improve the lot of Los Angeles drivers, received his marching orders as he was about to head home.

Word of the drivers’ plight has spread to Australia, with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and Labor Senator Glenn Sterle getting involved.

During parliamentary proceedings earlier this year, Sterle claimed the working conditions Toll imposed were "nothing short of disgraceful".

The TWU has used a Toll depot in NSW to stage a solidarity protest, while National Secretary Tony Sheldon accused the company of enforcing "third-world employment standards".

"Australian Toll employees are horrified at the victimisation and lack of human respect for their US colleagues," he says.

ATN contacted Toll for comment, but a company representative did not respond before deadline.

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