Elizabeth Coleman, 12 November 2015

Ten truck drivers have been arrested during a Transport Workers Union-led sit-in at a Coles supermarket this morning.

The protest at Coles in Sydney’s Parramatta was held ahead of parent company Wesfarmers annual general meeting in Perth today.

Truck drivers, who also protested at a Coles supermarket in Adelaide, were seeking to highlight 330 deaths in truck-related crashes each year resulting from “pressure” from retailers, the TWU said, adding that it was “peaceful demonstration”.

“Coles’ low cost contracts are forcing truck drivers to speed, drive long hours with overloaded vehicles,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

“The TWU is urging Wesfarmers shareholders today to demand that retailer Coles take action to stop the deaths in truck crashes.”

“This carnage has got to stop”.

NSW Police confirmed the arrests were made and the drivers were charged with trespassing and fined $350 each, before being released.

The TWU claimed that despite profits of $2.44 billion at Wesfarmers and Coles’ revenues standing at $38 billion, the group’s annual accounts show it has cut freight costs by $13 million.

The TWU is lobbying in support of a draft ruling this year by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal outlining minimum remuneration for self-employed truck drivers.

The order from the RSRT, resisted by retailers and logistics firms, also mandates pay for unloading and loading time, waiting periods, and rest breaks.

A Safe Work Australia report in July showed 20 per cent of transport industry employers are willing to break safety rules to meet deadlines — compared with 6 per cent of employers in other industries, the TWU said.

The union has also highlighted an audit this year of three transport operators at the Coles Distribution Centre at Eastern Creek in NSW found 126 breaches of National Heavy Vehicle Regulations.

However logistics firm Toll Holdings said the RSRT, which will be finalised by the end of the year, could result in “intolerable” increases in costs as it would be forced to pay self-employed truck drivers up to 55 per cent more in regional areas, or up to 30 per cent across the business.

A spokesman for Coles said: “Coles has repeatedly reached out to the TWU leadership to discuss the issues they have raised, but they appear more interested in running a campaign to boost their membership and gain media attention than having a genuine dialogue on safety with Coles.

“Coles is a signatory to the voluntary Retail Logistics Supply Chain Code of Conduct, which sets out our commitment to safe operating procedures, and Coles ensures its suppliers and contractors are aware of and understand the Code”.

Coles has previously disputed the figure of 330 truck driver deaths, saying it is out of date.

Extracted in full from The Australian.