The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has told Small Business Minister Bruce Billson that the relentless squeezing of suppliers by major retailers like Coles extends well beyond the food industry, and that when it comes to squeezing Australian truck drivers it can lead to death and destruction on our roads.
TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said, “I welcome the comments from Minister Billson reported in the media that major retailers like Coles are engaged in ‘harsh bargaining’ towards food suppliers.
“As with the food and farming industries, the economic power of Coles and other major retailers allows them to dictate to truck drivers and the road transport industry to do more for less.”
Coles Transport Manager Craig Wickham admitted in cross examination at the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal that company KPIs require him to reduce transport costs and that “this year we (Coles) will reduce transport costs by 5%”.
“These ‘harsh bargaining’ practices in the food industry threaten jobs and businesses – but in the road transport industry they threaten lives.
“This was graphically highlighted on Sydney’s northern beaches, when a Cootes transport petrol tanker crash resulted in a number of tragic deaths.
“Cootes, who carry fuel in the Coles supply chain, were subsequently found to have dozens of unsafe trucks on the roads. It seems that the pressure to keep low price contracts no matter what, meant that maintenance was squeezed.”
More than 20 years of evidence from cross-party inquires, coroners’ reports and academics has established the link between rates of pay for truck drivers and safety on our roads.
Testimony given by Professor Michael Rawling from the University of Technology Sydney, to the Federal Government’s Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal this week zeroed in on the dominant role of major retailers in the transport supply chain.
“Major retail clients can exercise influence over the maximum price paid and the maximum travel time available for truck journeys to deliver client freight… drivers frequently must accept work terms and conditions put to them, or fail to receive the work. It is these drivers who end up bearing any of the subsequent adverse consequences.”
Tony Sheldon concluded, “If Minister Billson and the Government are serious about standing up for small businesses, and about road safety, then it is critical they continue to support this Tribunal and demand Coles and the rest stop squeezing the life out of suppliers.
“Evidence like this from Professor Rawling, together with the countless statements from truckies and the litany of fatal truck crashes on our roads should be all the proof this Government needs.”