By Lindsay Brennan, Isaac Groves, Ruby Jinman
A large group of transport workers gathered outside Aldi Cannington on Friday morning to voice concerns about the supermarket’s cost-saving culture compromising the safety of truck drivers.
Wielding banners, flags and megaphones, dozens of members from the Transport Workers’ Union marched on the storefront as part of a nation-wide protest against the retail giant.
The protest came after the union’s claims that hundreds of deadly truck-related incidents in Australia were caused by “big companies like Aldi” failing to ensure safe working practices through their supply chains.
TWU Western Australian branch secretary Tim Dawson said Aldi’s low-cost contracts put pressure on truck drivers and transport businesses, leading to potentially dangerous trucks operating on Australian roads.
“Driving down rates means transport operators are forced to cut corners in maintaining their trucks… [and] are working longer hours than they should,” he said.
“They skip breaks and they’re tired on the roads … they simply can’t run their business [without] breaking the law because Aldi’s rates of pay are so low.”
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics reported deaths from truck-related crashes in Australia were currently up seven per cent compared to last year, with 152 deaths recorded by TWU so far.
Safe Work Australia data showed 40 per cent of all workplace deaths in 2017 involved transport workers, up from 25 per cent in 2015.
TWU lead organiser Mick Knowles said the battle for safe transport environments had been a long one for the TWU, the union group having already fought and won over Woolworths and Coles in the past few years.
“They’ve agreed that in this supply chain all the freights coming in and going out of the distribution centres have to be meeting a safety rate,” he said.
Mr Knowles said Aldi’s safety issues stemmed from its supply chain, where transport contractors cut costs by missing regular maintenance to pay for their own cost of living.
“That’s where it becomes a problem, because those [workers] who are lower [in the supply chain] end up having to cut costs … they’ve got to feed themselves and their family and pay for the house, the truck and everything else,” he said.
Mr Dawson said the fight would continue until Aldi heard the TWU’s concerns.
“Until we see Aldi come and sit at the table with us and talk … we will not go away,” he said.
“The Transport Workers’ Union does not go away, and transport workers do not go away. We will be here until this is fixed.”
An Aldi spokesperson said lack of communication had been the issue with TWU’s requests.
“Despite requests to the TWU, they have failed to notify Aldi of any specific details regarding alleged issues in the supply chain,” he said.
In August the Federal Court denied an Aldi bid to stop union protests on its property.
Mr Dawson said people often underestimated the importance of the transport industry in their everyday living.
“[Supermarkets] are only a small part of retail … all your white goods, TV, electronics and phones – that’s a part of retail too,” he said.
“There’s not a thing that you’re standing there in that hasn’t been on the back of a truck somewhere.”