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TWU to see Toll in court over payment terms

Enterprise bargaining action to get willing as members vote on strike move

 

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is tackling Toll on two fronts – in court and on the shop floor – as enterprise bargaining moves into a tougher realm. 

The union said it will sue Toll for almost $52 million in the New South Wales Supreme Court for breaching its contracted payment terms with owner-drivers on more than 5,000 occasions during the pandemic Christmas period.

The union announcement comes as 7,000 Toll employees begin voting on whether to go on strike over Toll’s proposed enterprise agreement, which would destroy decent jobs at the transport operator.

Toll rejected the unoin’s position outright.

“This is the latest example of the TWU trying to distract Toll and gain leverage during the current EBA negotiations,” a company spokeswoman said.

“Their claim is completely spurious and without merit and we will defend it vigorously in court.”

The TWU said Toll’s aimed to bring in new workers and outside hire on up to 30 per cent less pay and conditions threatens the jobs and earnings of the current workforce.

The case, which will be heard early next month, could see Toll pay penalties of up to $10,000 for each of the 5,187 late payments it made to almost 250 owner-drivers.

The TWU said delayed payments cause owner-drivers to struggle with the costs of running their trucks. The union cited evidence linking pay and safety, whereby sweated truck drivers are pressured to speed, work long hours and delay maintenance on their trucks to make ends meet.

TWU NSW state secretary Richard Olsen. Photo by Greg Bush

“Over the last year, Toll’s treatment of hardworking truck drivers has been an utter disgrace. While transport workers pulled in record profits for retailers like Amazon and Bunnings whose goods they transport, they’ve faced a threat to their own income,” TWU NSW state secretary Richard Olsen said.

“First, workers were forced to bear the brunt of two cyber attacks, then owner-drivers endured months of late payments during the high-intensity Christmas period.

“At the same time, Toll was cooking up a plan to obliterate the decent jobs of its employees.


Read how other firms are in the TWU’s sights, here


“Workers are understandably furious. While the TWU kicks off a case over more than 5,000 breaches to payment terms with owner drivers, another 7,000 employees have begun voting on strikes to demand job security.”

Toll claimed that the union was again misrepresenting its offer to its employees.

“Contrary to their claims, Toll has the best EBA in the entire industry and will still have the best EBA once these negotiations are concluded,” the spokeswoman said.

“One thing we and the union do agree on – our employees deserve a pay rise. We’re offering a lump-sum $1,000 payment, while still offering above CPI increases of 1.5%, back paid to 1 July 2021 and 1.75% from 1 July 2022.

“The TWU says that it wants to raise standards throughout the industry, but is instead taking pot shots at Toll, whose pay and conditions are at the top of our sector.

“Meanwhile, we have seen a steady increase in the gap between Toll wages and conditions and that of our competitors, allowing them to undercut and win work from us, resulting in less job security for our employees.

“Instead of attacking Toll at the top of the sector, why aren’t the TWU going after the bottom of the sector to raise the standards there? That is where real change needs to take place.

“We agree an increase in pay, conditions and safety standards should be met by the rest of the industry.

“However, by continuing to try and use Toll’s employees as a way to attack our competitors, the union is making Toll jobs less secure. If they really cared about the job security of Toll employees they would do the right thing, stop playing these silly games, and agree on a fair and equitable deal for both our employees and the company.”

The TWU quoted the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics in that in the five years to 2020, 885 people died in truck crashes.

It also pointed to Toll’s recent report of a huge jump in revenues during the pandemic, $6.3 billion from $4.7 billion in 2020. But the union said transport costs also ballooned, highlighting the tight margins transport companies are forced to operate under by major retailers, manufacturers and oil companies through their low-cost contracts.

The TWU added that worker wages and benefits at Toll decreased this year also while the company had been forced to write down the sale of Toll Express to Allegro.

 

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