A landmark judgement involving global retailer Aldi suing the Transport Workers Union over the union’s safety concerns in trucking will be handed down tomorrow Friday March 6th.
Aldi has taken the case to stop truck drivers and the TWU speaking out against serious safety concerns and low pay rates in its supply chain.
The judgment will be handed down by the Federal Court in Sydney at 9.30am.
The judgment could have far-reaching consequences for free speech since it is rare for a company to sue a non-government organization over “misleading and deceptive conduct”. It could mean civil society groups are gagged against raising issues to do with human rights, environmental and worker abuses.
Aldi dropped key charges following hearings in the long-running case last year including accusations of trespass, nuisance and secondary boycott in relation to protests the TWU and truck drivers have held outside Aldi stores and premises to highlight safety concerns. It has also dropped the charge of damage to reputation as an employer of choice.
“We are hopeful that justice will prevail and the courts will recognise the rights of truck drivers to speak out about the pressures they are under to take safety risks. This is a serious safety issue given the high numbers of truck drivers and other road users dying in truck crashes. Drivers must be able to speak out when safety is being compromised and Aldi must accept its role and become part of the solution,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
Truck drivers have spoken out that they are pushed to cut corners in safety and work long hours to meet Aldi’s unrealistic deadlines. There are also concerns about the transport operators which deliver Aldi’s goods, with some not maintaining their trucks and not paying their drivers the correct rates and superannuation.
In 2019, 188 people were killed in truck crashes; this compares to 158 in 2018, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics. Safe Work data shows of the 166 workers killed in 2019, 60 of them were transport workers.
“The TWU has presented evidence to the court of safety problems at Aldi and still the retailer refuses to accept our concerns. Since the case began two and a half years ago we have had even more revelations have come to light about problems in the Aldi supply chain. The public has seen the media exposés highlighting the disregard Aldi 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,” Kaine added.
The Federal Court case before Justice Flick began in August 2017 when the retailer failed to get an injunction stopping the TWU and drivers from protesting and speaking out about Aldi.