The Australian, 12 Novemeber 2015
Coles owner Wesfarmers has rejected truck drivers’ accusations it’s responsible for deaths on the road and has knocked back union pleas for it to support a safety charter.
Ten truckies and two union activists were arrested during a Transport Workers Union (TWU) protest inside a Coles store in Sydney ahead of Wesfarmers annual general meeting on Thursday afternoon.
The protest was one of several the union held across the country to highlight concerns about the pressure on truck drivers to speed and drive long hours with overloaded vehicles.
The union also disrupted Wesfarmers’ AGM in Perth with three members and proxy holders asking the group’s board to sign up to the TWU’s proposed Safe Rates Charter.
TWU branch secretary Tim Dawson said about 300 people were killed in truck-related crashes on Australian roads each year because of unrealistic deadlines placed on drivers by major retailers like Coles.
He said Coles was responsible for more than one million freight movements in the country each year and put a lot of pressure on the industry to cut rates.
Outgoing Wesfarmers chairman Bob Every rejected Mr Dawson’s suggestion Coles was responsible for truck drivers’ deaths.
“We have contracts with the national carriers Toll and Linfox and we demand they adhere to all obligations,” he said.
“We lament the injury and deaths on the road but we do not accept your thesis that Coles is responsible. We don’t run transport.”
When asked if the company would endorse the union’s safety charter, Mr Every said: “Short answer is no.”
“There is already enough legislation to cover it and that’s just unnecessary extra legislation.”
He said Wesfarmers was prepared to meet with the union to discuss the matter further.