Aldi tries to gag truck drivers’ union after claims of unsafe practices

The Guardian, 29 August 2017

Transport Workers Union says supermarket chain pressuring drivers to meet schedules that are not safe.

Union members protest outside an Aldi supermarket in Mount Druitt, Sydney. The Transport Workers Union has accused the chain of ‘economic exploitation’. Photograph: Perry Duffin/EPA

Union members protest outside an Aldi supermarket in Mount Druitt, Sydney. The Transport Workers Union has accused the chain of ‘economic exploitation’. Photograph: Perry Duffin/EPA

Aldi will push ahead with a court case to gag the union representing truck drivers, which says the supermarket giant is pressuring drivers to meet schedules that are not safe.

The Transport Workers Union accuses Aldi of using its wealth and size to bully drivers into unsafe practices including skipping rest breaks and truck maintenance in order to meet tight delivery times.

The supermarket chain has brought a case in the federal court that seeks to stop the TWU from publishing material that suggests Aldi is putting the squeeze on transport companies and would ban the union from disrupting its operations.

Despite last week losing a bid for an interim injunction – which was followed by a protest at one of its Sydney stores – Aldi says it will push ahead.

“It is our intention to pursue this matter in order to prevent ongoing disruption to our customers, employees and suppliers and to ensure that information disseminated about our business is factual and correct,” Aldi said in a statement on Tuesday.

But the union is worried Aldi is putting profits over safety.

“If Aldi were to succeed in this case to shut down free speech, to shut down political and industrial arguments in the public eye, that would have a knock-on effect,” the TWU national secretary, Tony Sheldon, said in Sydney.

Sheldon said truck drivers through the supply chain were being pressured to break the law and accept low rates of pay.

“You can’t run a business in the Aldi supply chain – for many companies and drivers – unless you break the law because the rates they pay are so low,” he said.

“This is economic exploitation at its worst and they want to shut down any exposure of what’s happening in their supply chain, which puts everybody at risk on our roads.”

Aldi, however, insists its delivery schedules are “realistic and safe”.

It also said it had attempted to speak with the TWU but had received no response.

“Despite Aldi’s request for specific information about alleged issues within our supply chain, the TWU have not provided any evidence to support their claims,” the company said. “We value our employees and pride ourselves on paying our staff well.”

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© 2016 Transport Workers' Union of Australia.
Authorised by Tony Sheldon, TWU National Secretary, 388-390 Sussex St, Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia.