The Transport Workers Union is threatening to “cripple food and fuel supplies across Australia” by taking strike action in protest at significant changes to pay and conditions proposed by major transport operator Toll.

Negotiations between TWU and Toll representatives for a new enterprise agreement covering 7000 workers broke down on Wednesday, with the union announcing it would apply to the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote to go on strike.

TWU officials said the proposed action, which would start as early as mid-August, could include 24-hour strikes and unlimited stoppages, disrupting grocery, alcohol and petrol supplies.

Toll workers are paid, on average, about $95,000 a year and receive an industry-leading super­annuation rate of 14.75 per cent, which would be preserved for existing employees under the company’s offer.

Toll is selling its global express business to private equity fund manager Allegro and hopes to have the sale finalised by the end of July. Toll will retain its global logistics division. The pay and conditions of staff transferring to Allegro have been “guaranteed”.

Toll is looking to expand its presence in the e-commerce and business-to-consumer markets and proposes new employees be paid at a lower rate equating to 10 per cent above the minimum award rate as well as 10 per cent superannuation.

Toll also wants part-time staff to be able to work additional hours up to 38 hours a week without getting overtime.

TWU NSW branch secretary and lead Toll negotiator Richard Olsen said the changes were designed to reduce access by full-time staff to overtime entitle­ments, while letting Toll employ new drivers as part-time workers on rates just above the award minimum with super no more than the national guarantee.

“For current drivers, who have spent decades building high standards at Toll through decent conditions, this is a direct attack on their jobs and will result in them being pushed out or forced onto far worse conditions,” he said.

The union is seeking annual pay rises of 3 per cent, while the company has proposed a one-off payment of $750 to cover 2020 when negotiations were delayed, followed by increases of 1.5 per cent and 1.75 per cent.

A Toll spokeswoman said the company was disappointed by the union’s action and would seek to reach a fair and reasonable agreement for its employees and the business.

“Toll transport workers enjoy industry-leading pay and conditions,” she said. “Australians who have already endured supply chain disruptions because of Covid-19 will find any action that deliberately causes further uncertainty very hard to fathom.

“We will continue to engage in constructive discussions to resolve the remaining points of agreement to avoid unnecessary disruption to Australians.”

TWU national secretary ­Michael Kaine said workers were angry their jobs were being threatened after they had driven bumper profits for Toll’s wealthy clients such as Amazon.

“Toll’s push for a substandard enterprise agreement is aimed at slashing pay and conditions in Toll yards to win work from wealthy retailers and manufacturers by offering low rates,” Mr Kaine said.

Extracted in full from: Transport Workers Union threaten strike at Toll (theaustralian.com.au)

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