Coles Insults Dead Truckies, Says Union

Release date: 27/04/2013

The Transport Workers Union says retail giant Coles has insulted the families of truck drivers who have died on the road due to fatigue from delivery and scheduling pressures.

James Massola, Australian Financial Review, 27 April 2013

In an escalation of the stoush between the union and the retailer over driver safety, TWU assistant national secretary Michael Kaine said the link between wages, conditions and road deaths was clear.

“It is very disappointing to hear Coles call this a ‘wages grab’ and it is an insult to the families and communities across Australia who have lost their loved ones due to the pressure on drivers, which is a direct result of the market dominance of Coles and other major retailers,’’ Mr Kaine said.

Coles argued in a submission to the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, an arm of the Fair Work Commission, that the TWU’s proposed order could add up to $300 million to transport costs and amounted to a “wages grab” that would force up grocery bills without improving driver safety.

The RSRT is consulting with the transport industry on driver pay and conditions.

The union’s campaign for “safe rates” for drivers was backed by 20 years of research, Mr Kaine said.

The TWU has argued that Coles and Woolworths use their market dominance to force drivers to accept unsafe pay and conditions that encourage drivers to speed and overload their trucks.

Coles spokesman Rob Hadler rejected the TWU’s claims and called on the union to produce hard evidence linking safety to rates of pay.

“Everyone is sick and tried of the unsubstantiated claims made by the TWU,’’ he said. “What is needed is hard statistical data confirming a link because all other evidence completed by independent research groups shows that while the volume of traffic has increased, safety has improved and the number of accidents has fallen.”

In other submissions to the Tribunal, the Australian National Retail Association, which represents major retailers including Woolworths, Costco, Harvey Norman and David Jones, warned a “one size fits all” regulatory approach to wages and conditions was inappropriate for the transport sector.

ANRA also argued in its submission the Tribunal should limits its orders to minimum pay rates and conditions small independent contractors only.

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