TWU and Aldi trade barbs over safety accusations


Aldi refutes union claims after latest wave of protests

TWU and Aldi trade barbs over safety accusations
TWU image of a truck broadcasting the protest message

 

The latest Transport Workers Union (TWU) protests against Aldi have prompted the supermarket chain to release a fact sheet defending its transport record in Australia.

The union links its campaign against Aldi to statistics citing a rise in transport fatalities in the past year - though not explicitly noting the fatalities involved Aldi drivers.

The TWU’s claim demands "Aldi raises its transport contract rates and standards in order to end the pressure on drivers and operators to cut corners in safety, by forcing delays to maintenance on trucks and by pushing drivers to speed, drive long hours and skip rest breaks".

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine expands on this point: "We have got to make trucking safer and fairer and the way to do this is by raising standards.

"Too many people including truck drivers are dying because of pressure in the transport supply chain to cut corners.

"Profits at big retailers like Aldi are being put ahead of safety. This claim sets out how this behaviour can be addressed and how safety can be made the number one priority.

"These drivers are fed up with their mates dying on the roads, they are tired of hearing about truck crashes happening because of faulty brakes, bald tyres or drivers pushed to speed and drive long hours.

"Big retailers like Aldi can help change our industry and that is why we are submitting our demand in a claim today."

TWU reiterates Aldi drivers have over years raised safety concerns including pressure to drive long hours and safety and hygiene standards at supermarkets and distribution centres, using a series of video exposes allegedly exposing some of those matters.

Aldi hits back, describing it as a "series of media stunts, intimidating Aldi employees and further propagating lies and mistruths regarding our business practices".

"We will not sit idle while our practices, people and professionalism is misrepresented in the most crass and callous of manners," the supermarket chain says in a statement

"The TWU has on multiple occasions accused ALDI of deaths on roads, underpaying employees, knowingly placing employees in harm’s way, violating heavy vehicle regulations, poorly maintaining our transport fleet, ignoring responsibilities within our supply chain and silencing workers.

"All of these claims are lies and we will not stand accused of such actions."

FACT SHEET

A fact sheet attributed to Aldi Australia corporate logistics managing director Damien Scheidel supports that statement, claiming the following:

  • Aldi pays its 530 transport operators on average 30% above award rates of pay
  • Aldi fleet of vehicles (269) is on average 4 years old
  • Aldi employs driver trainers and mechanics at all 8 distribution centres
  • Aldi is an advocate for the mandatory introduction of Electronic Work Diaries (EWD)
  • Aldi has a Alertline and promotes a whistleblower policy for drivers to comfortably voice issues
  • Aldi drivers maintain work diaries on all trips completed
  • Aldi audits 100% of work diaries to maintain safety standards
  • Aldi audits the performance of all our domestic freight providers ensuring compliance with the law
  • Aldi maintains a Heavy Vehicle Transport Services Safety and Corporate Responsibility Charter with its supply chain operators.

Aldi has made a previous submission with similar points to the Glenn Sterle-led Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport’s trucking inquiry on the ‘Importance of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry’.

Additionally, the supermarket retorts a TWU claim that "Aldi has refused to meet the TWU to discuss making its supply chain safer … Instead it is suing the union in the Federal Court to stop it and drivers from speaking out about rates and safety".

"We have contacted the TWU on more than ten occasions requesting details of their claims to ensure we can investigate the alleged safety concerns immediately. Not once have these details been forthcoming," Aldi responds.

"It is our view that the TWU are more interested in leveraging our good brand for their own influence and political gain than addressing transport safety issues."


More on the Aldi and TWU court case, here


In 2018, following a similar campaign, the TWU and Coles signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on safety and conditions in the Coles supply chain, with a separate charter signed previously with Woolworths.

There is currently no agreement between Aldi and TWU, though the supermarket says it "believes and upholds the following principles in our business operations: Everyone deserves a safe workplace."

"All road transport operators deserve a fair wage. All road regulations, particularly relating to fatigue must be met with 100 per cent compliance. All employees and those of our suppliers have a voice and will never be silenced.

"We encourage the TWU to stop harassing our retail employees and start representing the genuine interest of transport operators across Australia."

UPDATE:  The TWU has issued its own retort to Aldi’s statement.

"Our protests at Aldi stores across the country today clearly hit a nerve. Here are some corrections:

1. Aldi has upheld an expensive, years-long legal battle in the Federal Court trying to silence the TWU and truckies speaking out on safety. Aldi dropped several key charges just before the hearings ended.

2. Aldi drivers have for years raised safety concerns including pressure to drive long hours and safety & hygiene standards at supermarkets and distribution centres. Aldi and the Federal Court have been provided with a long list of safety breaches.

3. In a series of exposés involving testimony, photos and videos, drivers have spoken out about several safety breaches at Aldi. Here's just one such exposé: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-T02DBg2-A

4. Following years of Aldi refusing to come to the table on safety, transport workers have today reached out to Aldi with a list of standards that will improve safety in their transport supply chains.

5. At no stage did we harass or intimidate the shop staff. In fact we complimented them on the great job they do!"

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