I want Coles in the witness box: Sheldon

Union boss dismisses legal letter from retail giant, accusing it of trying to bully him and transport industry

I want Coles in the witness box: Sheldon
I want Coles in the witness box: Sheldon
By Brad Gardner | May 4, 2012

The union boss who sparked legal threats from retail giant Coles for linking it to the demise of 1st Fleet has stood by his claims and accused the company of trying to silence him.

Speaking to ATN today, Transport Workers Union (TWU) National Secretary Tony Sheldon dismissed a letter sent by a senior Coles executive accusing him of an "ongoing misinformation campaign" against the company.

General Manager George Dymond wrote: "We are considering our legal options in this regard", to which Sheldon responded: "I can’t wait to get them in the witness box."

The union heavyweight has long campaigned against the dominance of Coles and Woolworths, accusing them of using their market power to drive down rates and safety levels in the trucking industry.

"If you’re a manufacturer, a transport operator or a farmer and you stand up for people’s rights and say that it’s outrageous…they [the retailers] set the market conditions I guess they would want anyone to shut up," Sheldon says.

"They bully transport operators, they bully manufacturers, they bully others [so] why wouldn’t they try and bully the union?"

During a parliamentary hearing last year Sheldon accused Coles of putting the financial squeeze on Linfox, forcing the trucking company to sack employees and outsource its work to try and maintain a profit.

Sheldon says late payment terms, the global financial crisis and the dominance of the retailers in setting rates are combining to bring transport operators undone.

"We’ve been encircled by a series of events and aggressive market behaviour by the gorillas in the retail sector dominating the transport task," he says.

"The fact that they [1st Fleet] have gone down is indicative of the tight margins that are being forced by a combination of factors [and] by the retailers’ aggressive behaviour."

In the letter to Sheldon, Dymond says Coles has not used 1st Fleet for more than five years.

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