'Last resort': Fears for Australia's supplies as thousands of truckies strike

·3-min read

Logistics giant Toll has lashed out at the truck drivers' union after talks over pay and conditions broke down.

Up to 7000 truckies are set go on strike for 24 hours from Friday, which could affect the nation's food and fuel supplies.

The Transport Workers' Union earlier this week accused Toll of scrapping overtime entitlements and engaging outside drivers in a bid to compete with global firms like Amazon Flex.

"Workers have been left with no choice but to strike and fight against Uberisation of their industry," Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O'Neill said.

"Wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies are raking in billions whilst relentlessly trying to undercut the trucking workforce that continues to risk their lives to keep this country functioning during the pandemic."

Thousands of truck drivers will strike for 24 hours after negotiations broke down. Source: Getty
Thousands of truck drivers will strike for 24 hours after negotiations with Toll broke down. Source: Getty, file.

Toll had anticipated truckies' strike

The ACTU says the crisis at Toll mirrors that of the entire trucking industry, with companies like Linfox, Bevchain, Startrack and Fedex outsourcing drivers.

Toll says its enterprise agreement is the best in the industry and the president of its Toll Global Express businesses, Alan Beacham, has accused the TWU of refusing to compromise during negotiations.

"It is clear the union was always planning this industrial action, no matter how the negotiations were going," he said in a statement on Friday.

"We will not allow the Australian public to be held to ransom at the behest of the TWU leadership."

Mr Beacham expects 4000 employees, who are voting TWU members, to take part in the strike rather than the 7000 threatened by the union.

He said Toll had put in place contingency plans to deal with disruptions caused by the strike.

The industrial action, he said, was about the TWU using Toll as an example to bully the firm's competitors.

"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," he said.

"That is where real change needs to take place.

"Many of Toll's competitors have enterprise agreements in place, to which the TWU is a party, at lower rates of pay and less favourable terms for their employees."

Amazon Flex model 'an abomination', union says 

Earlier this week, TWU national secretary Michael Kaine accused Toll of trying to imitate companies like Amazon Flex.

Much like Uber, Amazon Flex describes its model as "you use your own vehicle to deliver packages ... as a way of earning extra money".

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine has hit out at the treatment of truck drivers amid the pandemic. Source: AAP
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine has hit out at the treatment of truck drivers amid the pandemic. Source: AAP

"It is an abomination that billionaire retailers like Amazon are smashing profit records while ripping off transport supply chains, and crushing the jobs of the truck drivers who've risked the health of their families to deliver parcels and keep shelves stocked," Mr Kaine said.

"Toll workers have been forced to take the last resort option to go on strike this week because their jobs are being smashed."

While Toll said the industrial action risked disrupting medical supplies, the union said it "has never and will never disrupt medical supplies or vaccines".

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