Toll Group is one of Australia’s largest transport and logistics players, employing at least 40,000 people, including 7000 truck drivers.
The company is in the process of negotiating a new enterprise bargaining agreement with the Transport Workers Union (TWU). Last month the talks broke down, leading the union to call for a strike.
Following a successful application to the Fair Work commission and a vote in which 94 per cent of workers supported the strike, Toll drivers stopped work at midnight today, Friday August 27. The strike will last for 24 hours, potentially disrupting food, alcohol, fuel and parcel deliveries this weekend. The TWU promised that deliveries of vaccines and other essential medical supplies will not be impacted.
The average Toll worker is paid $95,000 a year and receives 14.75 per cent superannuation, compared to the usual 10 per cent. The proposed new enterprise agreement would retain these conditions, but Toll is seeking to employ new online shopping drivers earning 10 per cent above award with the standard super contribution of 10 per cent.
The company also wants part-time employees to be able to work additional hours at ordinary pay, up to a maximum of 38 hours, after which overtime rates would apply.
The union says Toll is trying to take away part-time workers’ overtime and outsource work to lower-paid non-union contractors. It believes this will negatively affect better-compensated employees, who the business will then have reason to get rid of.
The two parties also disagree on future pay rises. The union is pushing for three per cent annually, while Toll has offered a two per cent increase for the next two years and a one-off $1000 bonus to reward drivers for foregoing last year’s pay rise in light of the pandemic.
Toll is the primary freight provider to Woolworths stores in and around Sydney, and North Queensland.
“We use a wide range of freight providers across Australia, so the strike won’t impact the majority of our national store network,” a Woolworths spokesperson said in a statement to Broadsheet. “Toll has assured us it has solid contingency plans in place to continue servicing our stores across Greater Sydney throughout the 24-hour strike.”
Other major Toll customers include Coles, Dan Murphy’s, Bunnings, Amazon, Kmart and McDonalds.
“Our team has been working hard all week to ensure our stores are fully stocked, so we don’t anticipate any impact to Dan Murphy’s customers,” a spokesperson said.
“I don't think there will be massive disruption,” Guillaume Maze, a Toll truck driver, told the ABC. “There will be some disruption, but not as far as groceries and medical goods are concerned … Home deliveries, that sort of thing will certainly be affected."
The TWU is also negotiating with Linfox and its subsidiary Bevchain on behalf of some 2000 workers, with strike a possible outcome. And on Tuesday, 2000 Startrack workers began voting on whether to take industrial action, while 4000 Fedex employees will do the same next week.
In total, 15,000 transport workers may strike in the near future. So while the disruption may be minimal this weekend, it may herald a more serious and widespread action down the line.