Hundreds of truck drivers are holding protests across the nation today over Aldi’s repeated refusal to address safety in its supply chain and its attack on free speech.

Protesters in Adelaide, Sydney’s west, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane are calling on the wealthy retailer to acknowledge its role in creating safety risks for truck drivers and other road users. They are also demanding that Aldi ends its federal court action to stop drivers protesting and speaking out about its poor safety record and low rates.

“Aldi is running rough shod over the transport industry, putting pressure on transport operators and drivers through its low cost contracts to take appalling risks that endanger lives. It is also trying to silence drivers and keep a lid on its dodgy practices,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon, who attended the rally in Adelaide.

“Retailers like Aldi have the backing of the Federal Government which prevented them from being scrutinised and investigated when it tore down an independent road safety watchdog last year. Malcolm Turnbull and Michaelia Cash knew when they did this there would be an increase in truck crash fatalities – their own report showed the tribunal’s Orders were cutting deaths by 28%,” he added.

Aldi truck drivers have described major breaches of fatigue rules and harassment for raising concerns. When one driver repeatedly challenged schedules which meant he had as little as three hours sleep, he was told by his Aldi manager: “Maybe you need to go faster”.

Aldi also refuses to acknowledge that its low cost contracts are the reason some transport operators it engages don’t maintain their vehicles or pay their drivers fairly.

In the past year there has been more than a 7% increase in deaths from crashes involving articulated trucks. This year, almost 40% of all workplace deaths involve a transport worker. In the 10 years to 2014, over 2,500 died in truck crashes.

Media Contact – Judith Crosbie 0432552895

Notes
1. Truck crash deaths statistics
Safe Work workplace fatality statistics: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/statistics-and-research/statistics/fatalities/fatality-statistics-industry
Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics fatal truck crash statistics: https://bitre.gov.au/publications/ongoing/fatal_heavy_vehicle_crashes_quarterly.aspx

2. Safe Rates
In April 2016 the Federal Government abolished a system backing safe rates that was holding wealthy clients such as retailers, banks, oil companies and ports to account for low cost contracts, which do not allow their goods to be delivered safely. This was despite the Government’s own reports showing a link between road safety and the pay rates of drivers and that the safe rates system would reduce truck crashes by 28%*.

3. Evidence of pressure
A Macquarie University study in February criticised a “critical gap” since the Government abolished the regulation that the independent tribunal represented, “that can eliminate existing incentives for overly tight scheduling, unpaid work, and rates that effectively are below cost recovery”.

The study also showed that:
• One in 10 truck drivers work over 80 hours per week.
• One in six owner drivers say drivers can’t refuse an unsafe load
• 42% of owner drivers said the reason drivers do not report safety breaches was because of a fear of losing their jobs

A Safe Work Australia report in July 2015 showed
• 31% of employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done
• 20% accept dangerous behaviour, compared to less than 2% in other industries.
• 20% of transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines – this compares with just 6% of employers in other industries.

4. Mental health & suicide
A survey released in April showed more than 22% of truck drivers said they had experienced mental health problems. A study by Deakin University showed 323 truck drivers committed suicide between 2001 and 2010. (Suicide among male road and rail drivers in Australia: a retrospective mortality study). An analysis by the Victorian coroner’s court showing truck drivers had the highest number of suicides out of any other profession, with 53 drivers taking their own lives between 2008 to 2014.

* PricewaterhouseCoopers “Review of the Road Safety Remuneration System Final Report January 2016” (PWC Review 2016 – published by the Commonwealth Department of Employment on 1 April, 2016)

Transport Workers' Union NSW
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