Update (2.43pm 10 August 2021): Toll has responded the TWU legal action, claiming it is "the latest example of the TWU trying to distract Toll and gain leverage during the current EBA negotiations. Their claim is completely spurious and without merit and we will defend it vigorously in court."
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has taken Toll to court alleging the delivery company paid owner drivers late on more than 5,000 occasions during the last Christmas period.
TWU is seeking $52 million from Toll in the court case which comes as 7,000 employees of the delivery giant prepare to vote on whether to go on strike over a proposed enterprise agreement.
The case, which will be heard in early September, could see Toll pay penalties of up to $10,000 for each of the 5,187 allegedly late payments it made to almost 250 owner drivers.
“Over the last year, Toll’s treatment of hardworking truck drivers has been an utter disgrace. While transport workers pulled in record profits for retailers like Amazon and Bunnings whose goods they transport, they’ve faced a threat to their own income,” TWU NSW state secretary Richard Olsen said.
"First, workers were forced to bear the brunt of two cyber attacks, then owner drivers endured months of late payments during the high intensity Christmas period. At the same time, Toll was cooking up a plan to obliterate the decent jobs of its employees.
“Owner-drivers run small businesses – usually just one person with one truck. They operate on wafer-thin margins, yet in good faith they agreed to extend their payment terms with Toll for six months. Once that time was up, Toll spat in their face and refused to go back to paying them weekly as per their contracted terms.”
In response, a Toll spokeswoman says the legal action will be defended "vigorously" in court.
"Once again the union is lying about our offer to our employees. Contrary to their claims, Toll has the best EBA (enterprise bargaining agreement) in the entire industry and will still have the best EBA once these negotiations are concluded," says the Toll spokeswoman.
"One thing we and the union do agree on – our employees deserve a pay rise. We’re offering a lump-sum $750 payment, while still offering above CPI increases of 1.5 per cent, back paid to 1 July 2021 and 1.75 per cent from 1 July 2022."
Toll also claims the TWU's frustrations are misdirected, and the union should instead be targeting those in the industry which undercut the logistics giant.
"The TWU says that it wants to raise standards throughout the industry, but is instead taking pot shots at Toll, whose pay and conditions are at the top of our sector," says the Toll spokeswoman.
"Meanwhile, we have seen a steady increase in the gap between Toll wages and conditions and that of our competitors, allowing them to undercut and win work from us, resulting in less job security for our employees. Instead of attacking Toll at the top of the sector, why aren’t the TWU going after the bottom of the sector to raise the standards there?
"We agree an increase in pay, conditions and safety standards should be met by the rest of the industry. However, by continuing to try and use Toll’s employees as a way to attack our competitors, the Union is making Toll jobs less secure."
It comes as 7,000 Toll workers are considering going on strike in response to a new enterprise agreement which would bring in new workers on lower salaries.
“Workers are understandably furious,” Olsen said.
“While the TWU kicks off a case over more than 5,000 breaches to payment terms with owner drivers, another 7,000 employees have begun voting on strikes to demand job security.”
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support