D'Ath blasts Coalition during TWU protest against Coles

Labor MP signs pledge to support Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal during another rowdy TWU protest outside a Coles supermarket

D'Ath blasts Coalition during TWU protest against Coles
D’Ath blasts Coalition during TWU protest against Coles
By Brad Gardner | July 18, 2013

A federal Labor MP has blasted the Coalition over its desire to review the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), amid another Transport Workers Union (TWU) protest against Coles.

Opening up a new front in the election battleground today, Labor MP Yvette D’Ath pointed to the Coalition as the party that wanted to destroy a tribunal charged with lifting safety standards in the trucking industry. Labor introduced the RSRT last year, and D'Ath today signed a document pledging to support the tribunal.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott earlier this year released a document declaring a Coalition government would "urgently review" the RSRT and that there was no evidence the tribunal was necessary to address safety and remuneration issues.

"They are going to scrap it. They are going to scrap a tribunal that has been put in place to save lives and that is disgusting, absolutely disgusting. We cannot let that happen," D’Ath told a group of truck drivers and TWU members in Redcliffe, north of Brisbane, today.

"We have a crisis in this country. Hundreds of people are dying on our roads involved in crashes dealing with heavy vehicles. The issue of safety on our roads should be above partisan politics and it should be above the issue of profits for major clients such as retailers."

D’Ath’s comments came after a rowdy TWU protest against Coles, with the union seeking to again chastise the retailer over its approach to addressing safety in the trucking industry.

Waving placards and carrying a giant banner blaming Coles for pushing safety standards down, TWU members, truck drivers and their family members marched along Redcliffe’s restaurant scene and converged on the retailer’s store.

Coles called police, who stationed themselves at the entrance as the TWU and its supporters chanted slogans and handed out information leaflets to shoppers and interested bystanders.

Queensland TWU Secretary Peter Biagini, who led the march, says the union is continuing to focus on Coles because it, unlike competitor Woolworths, refuses to discuss the union’s concerns about supply chain pressures on truck drivers.

"It appears…they’ve got their heads in the sand while the others are actually saying, ‘let’s talk about it’," Biagini says.

He says the TWU plans to lobby more politicians from all parties between now and the federal election to declare their support for the tribunal.

"With Tony Abbott coming out and saying that one of the first things he is going to do is do an urgent review of this, to us that says he is going to wipe it out and look after the big end of town," he says.

"Over the coming months we’ll be campaigning right across the country until Coles and the federal Coalition sign up to safe rates, because Aussie lives depend on it."

Biagini wants Abbott to rethink his plan to review the RSRT if the Coalition takes office.

"The first thing I would be saying to him is, give this a chance. Give it a chance to see if it works and improves safety on the roads, because at the end of the day there have been many, many inquiries over the last 20 years that have absolutely linked low rates of pay with fatalities on the roads," he says.

The TWU’s most recent survey of truck drivers, released in April this year, found that 73 percent of respondents carting freight for Coles pointed to retail as the major cause of dangerous pressures on the trucking industry.

Coles dismissed the survey as a "push poll" and rejected as "baseless" the TWU’s accusations that the supermarket chain was undermining safety standards. It says it has never been investigated or prosecuted for any chain of responsibility breaches.

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