Truck drivers and their supporters from the Uniontown Conference for Regional Unions rallied at an Aldi store in central Wollongong today as fears mount over safety in the wealthy retailer’s transport supply chain.
The protest started at 1pm at Wollongong Diggers’ Club with protesters marching to the Aldi Store at 25 Stewart Street in Wollongong.
The TWU has continually asked Aldi to meet to discuss putting in place safety systems in its supply chain. Instead Aldi is pursuing the union in a Federal Court case which if successful could stop other civil society groups from speaking out about environmental, human rights and worker abuses.
Aldi refuses to acknowledge the safety problems in its supply chain, despite shocking photos and videos showing safety doors blocked, fire equipment hemmed in, faulty electrics and poor lighting for truck drivers delivering goods at night. Truck drivers are continuing to come forward with testimony of pressure to cut safety corners and to drive fatigued.
“We are delighted with the support we are receiving in Wollongong and from the Uniontown’s Conference for Regional Unions in our push for safer roads. Aldi as a major retailer has a duty to ensure every element of its supply chain is safe yet this is not happening. Aldi instead is trying to shut down truck drivers who are speaking out and putting forward evidence that proves the major problems that exist. Today drivers and their supporters will be protesting to call on Aldi to listen to the concerns of drivers and take responsibility for road safety,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“We have been appalled to hear what is happening in the Aldi transport supply chain and how truck drivers are being ignored and ridiculed when they raise concerns about safety. Today we are supporting the drivers who have come forward and are saying we will defend their right to speak out. Transport is Australia’s deadliest industry and the companies at the top which hold the power for what happens in this industry through their contracts must be held to account,” said Arthur Rorris from the South Coast Labour Council.
One in three workers killed at work is a transport worker, the highest for any profession, according to Safe work Australia data.
Last week Aldi dropped four key charges in its case against the TWU. A major agreement between the TWU and Coles has been signed which involves statements of principle to ensure safe and fair conditions for workers in the Coles supply chain and the on-demand economy. A separate charter has been signed previously with Woolworths.
The TWU has announced widespread industrial action in transport next year as 200 enterprise agreements covering 38,000 transport workers expire. The union is pushing to ensure accountability among powerful, wealthy companies at the top of the transport supply chain, like Aldi.
The Federal Government tore down a road safety watchdog in 2016 which was holding major retailers and manufacturers to account over safety in their supply chains, despite the Government’s own report saying it was reducing truck crashes by 28%. Since the watchdog was abolished, 645 people have been killed in truck crashes, including 142 truck drivers.