'Kernel of truth' in Coles' claims, TWU alleges

TWU deputy fires back at Coles in latest salvo over dispute involving pressures on truck drivers

'Kernel of truth' in Coles' claims, TWU alleges
'Kernel of truth' in Coles' claims, TWU alleges
By Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi | August 20, 2012

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has fired back at Coles in its dispute with the retailer, accusing it of trying to ignore the influence it has on the transport supply chain.

Responding to Coles media spokesman Jim Cooper’s comments last week following a protest held by veteran truckies in Sydney over pressures in the trucking industry, TWU National Secretary Assistant Michael Kaine says Coles is revealing only "a kernel of truth" on the matter.

"Coles likes to play hard and fast with figures and statistics to cast doubt on the overwhelming evidence that their market power has a huge effect on safety conditions in the road transport industry," Kaine says.

"Mr Cooper is giving the public a kernel of truth and expecting the public to swallow their entire story," he adds.

"But the simple facts of the matter are that safety standards at transport majors have nothing to do with Coles but are the result of won TWU agreements and management who understand that pressuring a driver too far can be lethal.

"Mr Cooper makes no claims as to the safety standards on the countless other owner-drivers and companies which cart their goods frequently under enormous pressure.

Kaine refers to Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics statistics which show a 41 percent fall in the price of transport between 1964 and 2007, saying it has caused "a race to the bottom" as transport companies are forced to cut corners and subcontractors.

"Coles thinks it can wash its hands of the problem by just claiming it is not squeezing its transport suppliers but suppliers and drivers are saying something quite different," Kaine says.

A recent TWU national survey of more than 700 truck drivers shows that 44 percent of drivers who carry goods for Coles say they feel pressured to engage in unsafe practices, he adds.

"A full 80 percent of drivers who undertake work for Coles believe their employer (or contractor) is pressured to demand unsafe practices due to pressure from Coles.

"Coles needs to stop engaging in semantics and clever language and work with, not against, the TWU to make its supply chain safer and to help save lives on Australian roads."

Cooper last week labelled the TWU’s claims "unfounded". He asked the union to produce evidence of alleged road safety breaches. Cooper says Coles takes the safety of transport practices very seriously and requires operators to comply with all road laws and regulations.

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