Teamsters turn up heat on Toll over driver sackings


Fresh from seeking Australian Consulate's intervention into Toll's US operations, the Teamsters continue to pressure the company over labour conditions

By Brad Gardner | November 29, 2011

The Teamsters union and truck drivers are continuing their campaign against Toll’s US-operations in the wake of a protest earlier this month outside the Australian Consulate.

Toll’s remaining drivers stationed at its Los Angeles site have donned union-badged T-shirts to show their support for the Teamsters to bargain on their behalf.

Toll has so far refused to negotiate with the Teamsters and sacked 26 of its drivers in October in a move the union claimed was in retaliation for raising concerns over labour conditions.

In what has been a long-running dispute, the Teamsters and drivers accuse Toll of denying wharf cartage staff access to clean indoor bathroom, kitchen and rest facilities.

Toll has denied the accusations. The company has also been criticised for hiring an anti-union consultant the Teamsters allege harasses and intimidates employees.

A spokeswoman for the Teamsters, TJ Michels, says the drivers are rolling up to work in union shirts at least once a week.

"That’s a big deal. None of these drivers believe these were legitimate lay-offs," she says.

In a letter handed to Consul-General Chris De Cure at the November 10 protest, Teamsters official Nick Weiner says the 26 drivers were sacked on the same day they wore T-shirts with the Teamsters logo and a protest involving 200 people was staged outside Toll’s Los Angeles base.

The sackings came one day after Toll’s annual general meeting, which the Teamsters and one of the now former drivers had flown to in a bid to publicly raise their concerns.

"A reasonable person would be hard pressed not to see Toll’s action as retaliation for union activity and, more simply, for objecting to the terrible working conditions outlined above. Formal charges against the company have thus been filed with the National Labor Relations Board," Weiner writes.

He reiterated concerns to De Cure over the treatment of the drivers, saying the operator would never get away with enforcing similar conditions in Australia. However, De Cure responded by saying it would be "inappropriate" for him to intervene in the matter.

He says he reported the protest and the grievances raised by the union and drivers to the government.

The NLRB is currently looking into Toll over a series of allegations ranging from unfair dismissal, to intimidation, spying on its workforce and preventing workers from forming a union.

Teamsters officials also filed a lawsuit against the company earlier this year accusing it of contractual violations an failing to pay correct wages. Toll has still not responded to a detailed list of questions from ATN sent to the company on November 3.

Alberto Quiteno, one of the 26 drivers recently sacked and who flew to Australia to attend the AGM, wrote a letter to Little prior to losing his job. He labelled the working conditions "humiliating" and "horrible", but the outgoing managing director refuted his claims.

Little says drivers have access to an indoor lounge, shower facilities, a spacious lunchroom and clean bathrooms at its San Pedro base near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. He says port-a-loos are used at the smaller Toll container yard at Wilmington.




Related articles:

Australian consulate dragged into Toll-Teamsters spat
Teamsters union takes complaints to Toll's doorstep
Hey Paul, take your money and go: Sheldon
Toll cops lashing over US operations


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