TWU strikes as relations with TNT break down

The TWU begins 24 hour strike against TNT, forcing the carrier to plead with customers to withhold freight

TWU strikes as relations with TNT break down
TWU strikes as relations with TNT break down

By Brad Gardner | February 16, 2011

Freight carrier TNT has been forced to ask customers to withhold freight as the Transport Workers Union wages a 24-hour strike against the company.

Negotiations between both parties on a new enterprise agreement have again broken down in acrimony, prompting the union to launch industrial action. The TWU wants site rates for employees and labour-hire staff, superannuation increases and a safe rates committee established.

Both parties have agreed to a 4 percent annual wage rise, but the TWU wants the agreement to run for two years instead of three as proposed by TNT.

In a statement on its website TNT says contingency measures are being taken to minimise disruptions.

"However, we would encourage customers who can do so, to withhold non-urgent freight for the duration of the day as this will assist us in clearing any backlogs quickly and efficiently," it says.

The TWU says more than 1500 drivers across Australia are taking part in the strike. TWU acting national secretary Michael Kaine is critical of TNT, claiming it has refused meetings on four occasions since January 28 to reach a compromise.

"The management of TNT is refusing to even talk about effective protections in job security and safety across the operations," Kaine says.

"TNT management declined to modify its offer in relation to increased superannuation or site rates as part of the negotiations."

The union wants annual increases to superannuation until it reaches 15 percent. It struck a similar deal last year with Linfox.

A TNT spokesman says the company is not in a position to respond to the union’s claims because it is focused on reducing the impact of the strike.

"Today our focus is purely on the customer," he says.

A statement on TNT’s website says it has made compromises, including on safe rates, extended leave arrangements for TWU delegates, a reduction in casual employees and changes to dispute resolution procedures.

The TNT spokesman says he cannot detail what the compromises involve, but the TWU says the company’s position on a safe rates committee does not go far enough.

"They’ve said consultation [about safe rates] but they’ve put nothing on a paper," a union spokesman says.

According to TNT Managing Director Bob Black, the TWU’s proposal will cost the company about $10 million annually.

"Such costs are not sustainable and would put pressure on TNT's viability within Australia," Black claims.

The comments have been scoffed at by the TWU, which says the transport operator can afford the union’s claims.

In open letters to Black, Kaine bemoans TNT’s decision to refuse meetings, saying it "is placing significant barriers in the path of reaching an agreement".

The TWU wants a CPI safety net in the new agreement to protect wages from inflation, which TNT has agreed to. However, Kaine rejects TNT’s offer to extend TWU delegates’ leave from five to six days.

"One day above the Award minimum is not enough for delegates at a company such as TNT," Kaine writes.

The union wants a greater commitment from TNT to ensure a safe rates committee and site rates are introduced.

"Unfortunately, a general statement of support and a commitment to meet to discuss issues cannot of itself lead to a reduction in the use of outside hire," Kaine says.

He writes that members are concerned about job security due to TNT’s decision to increase its use of labour hire workers.

"Despite this we are yet to receive any offer at all in relation to our site rates proposal or any other proposal amounting to a commitment to decrease the use of outside hire," Kaine says.

The TWU held stoppages last month to pressure the company into acceding to its demands. A series of four-hour stoppages were held across Australia, along with bans on loading and unloading vehicles used by contractors.

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