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Truck drivers rally nationwide after company collapse

Truck drivers who say they are forced to speed, drive fatigued and delay maintenance have marched on Aldi as part of a wider campaign demanding better conditions from major retailers.

Hundreds of truckies protested outside Aldi stores in co-ordinated rallies across the country on Tuesday, after the German-owned chain pushed back on union demands.

Aldi is the only one of the major three supermarkets to refuse to sign the Transport Workers’ Union’s charter on supply chain accountability, according to the union.

The protest follows the collapse of Australia’s largest cold-chain operator, Scott’s Refrigerated Logistics. The company collapsed last week, with the loss of 1500 jobs, after being hit hard by increasing fuel prices, weather events and COVID shutdowns.

Truck drivers say small transport operators are running on razor-thin margins and going to the wall while major retailers reap huge profits.

The union is demanding better conditions from 40 of the nation’s top retailers, which is said reaped $160 billion in revenue a year based on latest reporting figures.

The TWU said transport companies were compromising safety to stay afloat, constituting a “national crisis” – with 45 people killed in truck crashed this year, including 10 truck drivers.

The TWU has a list of demands, ranging from greater transparency and fairness, eliminating financial incentives and pressure to take risks, as well as ensuring workers are able to speak out on pay and safety, which it will deliver to the companies on Tuesday.

Companies receiving the charter include Amazon, Apple, IKEA, 7-Eleven, David Jones, Costco, Arnott’s, Bing Lee, Nestle and Myer.

An Aldi spokeswoman rejected the TWU’s “baseless and damaging” allegations.

Aldi has agreed to engage with the TWU over its concerns, but has requested more information regarding the union’s safety claims.

“We wrote to the TWU two weeks ago offering to meet with them and are still waiting for a reply,” the spokeswoman said.

“The Aldi business model does not involve squeezing suppliers.

“Aldi sets clear expectations with our suppliers to ensure there is correct payment of wages, vehicles are maintained, delivery timeframes are realistic and achievable and drivers take breaks as required by legislation.”

Scott McGrath, who drove a truck for Aldi for eight years, said drivers were not being given a “fair go” and had difficulty negotiating better conditions.

“We’re all lumped in with store employees and warehouse workers,” he said.

“We’re outnumbered something like 12 to one when it comes to voting in an enterprise agreement,” he said.

“While I appreciate store staff are vital to the business, why is it those kids that have just come out of school and they’ve got their first job, are voting on an agreement that dictates the terms and conditions of unfortunately the most dangerous job in Australia?”

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said highly profitable retailers squeezing transport operators was killing Australians in preventable truck crashes and sending transport operators broke.

“Transport workers are taking the crisis in transport to those with the commercial power reaping massive gains from the razor-thin margins of operators and owner-drivers who transport their goods,” Mr Kaine said.

Transport workers would take further action if necessary, including more protests and convoys, he said.

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