Mr Aird was speaking after a convoy of trucks and more than 100 transport workers disrupted Coles’ two largest Distribution Centres in Sydney at Smeaton Grange and Eastern Creek. Candidate for the Federal electorate of Banks Chris Gambian also signed a pledge refusing to accept any donations from Coles or Wesfarmers until they put community safety ahead of corporate bonuses.
“We acknowledge that some members of the community were affected by this action, but mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are being killed on our roads and we need bring to public attention the scale of the crisis,” Mr Aird said.
“Money that should be going to truck drivers to help them maintain their vehicles and sustain their families is instead going into the pockets of the Coles Managing Director and his senior executives as bonuses for driving down transport costs and making our roads unsafe.
“This is leading to chaos and tragedy on our roads and in our communities, with hundreds of fatal truck crashes each year.”
Mr Aird said Coles’ attempts to avoid their responsibilities have extended to multimillion dollar lobbying operations in Canberra, with $2.1 million donated to the Liberal Party in recent years and an extensive backroom lobbying presence.
“This is a company that chooses to spend millions lobbying in Canberra to abolish laws designed to save lives rather than step up and acknowledge their responsibility to our community. This is the ultimate example of the big-end of town thinking they can buy their way out of any problem,” Mr Aird said.
“We are proud that politicians like Chris Gambian are willing to stand with their communities and transport workers by pledging not to take any donations from Coles or Wesfarmers until Coles puts community safety ahead of their profits and executive bonuses.”
Chris Gambian said, "Safe rates should be a bipartisan issue: it is important for our truck drivers, their families, and every Australian family that we have safe roads. I call on all candidates in the seat of Banks to make this same pledge."
Truck driver Mark Smallwood said that truck drivers were under immense pressure to push the limits on fatigue, speed and truck maintenance because of the lethal squeeze by companies like Coles.
“The pressure is very real because often it’s the difference between keeping a contract and not being able to feed your kids,” Mr Smallwood said.
“Truck drivers shouldn’t have to risk their lives, and the lives of others on the road, to meet Coles’ impossible demands.
“I’m lucky enough to work for a decent company but I know I share the road with hundreds of drivers who are exhausted, overloaded and speeding. This is what leads to crashes.”
Mr Aird said that March had been a horror month on Australian roads.
“Already this month, 20 people have been killed in truck crashes across Australia - that’s 20 people who will never come home to their families, friends and communities,” Mr Aird said.
“If we are serious about ending this carnage then we need to tackle the root cause of the crashes: relentless pressure from clients forcing drivers to speed, drive long hours and delay essential maintenance.”