On Tuesday, Aldi, Amazon, Apple and Australia’s other top retailers, food and beverage manufacturers and agricultural companies will receive a claim from transport workers demanding they sign up to six principles to make their supply chains safer, fairer and more sustainable.
The claim follows the devastating collapse of Australia’s largest cold chain operator, Scott’s Refrigerated Logistics, which was in the supply chain of 22 of the 40 companies to receive the claim.
These 40 supply chain clients reap a total of more than $160 billion in revenue a year based on latest reporting figures. Meanwhile the operators and drivers transporting their goods are teetering on razor-thin margins and deadly pressure to delay maintenance, speed, and drive fatigued to make ends meet.
The crisis in transport is killing people and businesses. In FY21-22, almost 200 transport businesses became insolvent. Already this year, 45 people have died in truck crashes, including 10 truck drivers.
Hundreds of truck drivers and logistics workers will descend on Aldi stores around the country to hand-deliver the claim to the retailer which previously lost two legal battles attempting to silence transport workers’ speaking out on safety in their supply chains.
Unlike Coles and Woolworths, Aldi has previously refused to sign a charter with the TWU on supply chain accountability.
The six principles of the claim are:
- Safety and fairness – accountability for safe, fair work throughout their supply chains
- Transparency – over transport contracts so no worker falls through the cracks
- Collective voice – ensuring transport workers can speak out on pay and safety
- Education and consultation – on issues that impact workers’ pay and safety
- Lifting industry standards – eliminating financial incentives and pressures to take risks
- Disaster preparedness – equipping workers to safely navigate natural disasters, pandemics and other supply chain disruptions
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said retailers are reporting booming profits while transport operators and drivers in their supply chains are either going broke or under deadly pressure to cut corners in safety to stay afloat.
“Gargantuan retail profits from a greed-price spiral and squeezed transport costs are hurting the economy, killing Australians in preventable truck crashes and sending transport operators broke. The collapse of Scott’s Refrigerated Logistics is devastating for transport workers and supply chains with no sizeable competitor in cold chain logistics.
“Transport workers are taking the crisis in transport to those with the commercial power reaping massive gains from the razor-thin margins of operators and owner-drivers who transport their goods.
“Workers have had enough of wealthy retailers, manufacturers and agricultural companies shirking their responsibilities for safety and fairness in their supply chains. They’ve had enough of deadly pressures, bankruptcies and a rise of exploitative gig models as operators scramble with growing and unrealistic pressure for transport to be quicker and cheaper.
“Transport workers are taking affirmative action today and over coming weeks and months with a commitment to further protests and convoys to hold wealthy clients to account.
“The Federal Government has committed to setting enforceable standards in transport to make the industry safer, fairer and more sustainable. It’s time wealthy supply chain clients like Aldi and Amazon stepped up to their responsibilities to stop the slaughter on our roads,” he said.
NOTES AND REPORTS
- In 2022, Aldi twice failed in the Federal Court to silence truck drivers speaking out on safety, with the global supermarket giant ordered to pay the TWU’s full court costs.
- news.com.au estimated Aldi’s profit margin to be 8.4%, far higher than Woolworths (5%) and Coles (3.5%). The news outlet based its analysis on Aldi’s $10.7 billion revenue and declaration of $900 million in taxable income.
- The TWU has signed charters with Woolworths (2016) and Coles (2020) on safety, fairness and transparency in their supply chains. The Coles agreement also includes provisions for workers in the on-demand or transport gig economy.
- The TWU has called for an end to the ‘Amazon Effect’ of cost-cutting from the top of supply chains and unfair competition for exploitative gig models like AmazonFlex.
- FedEx has been the latest major operator to cave to the pressure of the gig economy, introducing a piece-rate model for van drivers that strips them of fair pay and other entitlements.
- A report by the Australia Institute revealed excessive profits are pushing up inflation.
- ABS statistics show retail industry profits grew 6.5% in the December 2022 quarter.
- ASIC reports show transport is in the top 10 industries for insolvencies, with 190 transport companies becoming insolvent in FY2021-2022.
- A Monash study showed chronic health conditions for truck drivers are higher than national averages.