Wealthy retailer Aldi has dropped key charges in its Federal Court case against the TWU, as the hearings in the long-running case concluded this week.
Aldi has informed the court it is no longer accusing the TWU of trespass, nuisance or secondary boycott in relation to protests the TWU and truck drivers have held outside Aldi stores and premises. It has also dropped the charge of damage to reputation as an employer of choice.
But the retailer still accuses the TWU of misleading and deceptive conduct, which if accepted by the court could lead to the gagging of community and civil society groups in Australia.
“This case from the start was bogus. Aldi knows we have the evidence to show the problems with safety in its supply chain and it took a lengthy and costly court case against us to try and shut us up. Now it has dropped four key charges which indicates it realises the case against us is weak. Aldi should drop this case altogether and sit down with the TWU and truck drivers to talk about how it can put in place better systems to make our roads safer,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“This case has been continuing for two long years and during that time even more revelations have come to light about problems in the Aldi supply chain. The public has seen for itself the disregard the retailer has for basic safety through images from Aldi storerooms showing blocked fire exits, blocked safety equipment, faulty electrics, filthy floors, rotting meat left out, no lighting for truck drivers delivering goods and a flooded loading dock. Aldi may have deep pockets which allow it to mount legal cases to try to silence us but we will continue to fight for the right of drivers to speak out,” Kaine added.
It is only the second time in Australia that a company has sued a trade union in a court hearing over “misleading and deceptive conduct”. It is also suing the union over “injurious falsehood”. If Aldi wins its case it could mean civil society groups are severely curtailed in raising issues to do with human rights, environmental and worker abuses.
The Federal Court began in August 2017 when the retailer failed to get an injunction stopping the TWU and drivers from protesting and speaking out about Aldi.
Two weeks of hearings in total held in April and October concluded yesterday with Justice Flick now considering the case.