The TWU will appeal a Federal Court decision ordering wealthy retailer Aldi to pay just half the union’s costs after a losing a case that sought to silence truck drivers on safety issues.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the union will push for full costs.
“Aldi tried to shut down the voice of truck drivers through a costly case which rans for almost three years. These drivers were raising legitimate concerns about safety which Aldi refused to acknowledge. Aldi spectacularly lost this case and it should be forced to pay the full costs. Drivers must be able speak out when their lives and the lives of other road users are threatened,” Kaine said.
“It is important that wealthy retailers like Aldi are held to account when they use the system to try to tie workers up in legal battles. Trucking is Australia’s deadliest industry and Government reports constantly state the number of people killed in truck crashes is disproportionally high. Retailers, manufacturers, oil companies and other businesses which reply on trucking must ensure that their goods are being transported in the safest possible way, otherwise people die. Truck drivers every day are being pressured to speed, drive long hours and skip their mandatory rest breaks because of the pressure to keep transport costs down. Aldi must own up to its role in road safety. It should be listening to drivers raising concerns, not trying to shut them down,” Kaine added.
Aldi truck drivers have raised concerns about being pushed to drive long hours, skip safety procedures, operate faulty trucks, work in stores and distribution centres with blocked fire exits, faulty electrics, filthy floors, rotting meat left out and no lighting during night deliveries. TWU has also uncovered evidence of transport operators in the Aldi supply chain not training drivers adequately, not maintaining their trucks and failing to pay drivers proper rates and superannuation.
Aldi is appealing its failed case in the Federal Court. The court threw out Aldi’s charge of “misleading and deceptive conduct”, stating: “The pressure put on drivers transporting Aldi goods inevitably, but regrettably, occasioned contraventions by drivers of safety standards imposed by Aldi.”
Evidence by a truck driver in the case about a being forced to driver a faulty Aldi truck “would warrant serious injury”, the judgment adds.
In 2019, 188 people were killed in truck crashes; this compares to 155 in 2018, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics. Safe Work data shows of the 70 workers killed in 2020, 23 of them were transport workers.*
A major agreement between the TWU and Coles was signed during the union’s National Council two years ago. The agreement involved statements of principles to ensure safe and fair conditions for workers in the Coles supply chain and the on-demand economy. A separate charter has been signed previously with Woolworths.