Toll puts Teamsters matter to rest

Toll strikes deal to improve wages and conditions at its Los Angeles operation

By Brad Gardner | January 15, 2013

Toll has struck a deal to improve wages and conditions at its Los Angeles operation, while also settling unfair labour allegations levelled against the company.

Management and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union recently signed off on a new workplace agreement that lifts the daily hourly rate for drivers hauling freight for Toll from $12.72 to $19. Night shift drivers will now receive $19.75 per hour, an increase of $6.53.

The agreement, which also guarantees pension contributions, paid holidays and cheaper healthcare coverage for drivers, came on the heels of Toll and the Teamsters reaching an agreement on charges to be ruled on by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The accusations ranged from spying on, threatening and interrogating workers with union sympathies. The Teamsters and Toll confirmed both parties agreed to confidential terms prior to the hearing.

"Toll Group is pleased with the commencement of the new pay and conditions deal for its LA-based port truck drivers as a result of the recently negotiated agreement with their union," Toll spokesman Christopher Whitefield says.

Toll has committed to re-negotiating terms if half of the LA port companies reach new pay deals with their workers.

Teamsters President James Hoffa has signalled the union will pursue greater wages and conditions for drivers at the port.

"Toll Group and its drivers have raised the bar for responsible competition, and the Teamsters will not stop until the rest of the nation’s port drivers have a shot at the American Dream," he says.

The union says most US port drivers are paid, on average, $28,873 a year before tax.

Whitefield says the new wages deal swaps an increase in the base rate of pay with a drop in the incentive pay drivers receive. He says drivers last year earned about $21 per hour on average with overtime and incentive pay.

"Now the average hourly earnings will be closer to US$22 with overtime and incentives," he says.

The agreement shifts most of the cost of healthcare coverage onto Toll, with the Teamsters saying drivers will pay about $30 per month for individual coverage and $150 for family coverage. It says drivers previously paid $125 a month for an individual and $400 for a family.

Drivers will also receive seven paid holidays, three paid personal days and six paid sick days each year.

The Teamsters and Toll truck drivers campaigned for more than two years for improved wages and conditions, staging protests, raising grievances at the company’s annual general meeting in Australia and approaching the Australian consulate in LA for assistance.

Drivers complained of unsanitary work conditions and being targeted for supporting the Teamsters. The union lodged a number of complaints with the NLRB, none of which were upheld.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) backed the Teamsters’ campaign, holding meetings at Toll yards to gather support from Australian truck drivers.

TWU Acting National Secretary Michael Kaine says the agreement will act as a springboard for organising the entire port trucking industry in the US.

"This is a great victory for truckers who have been fighting for living wages and decent conditions at Toll for several years now. The new agreement has seen hourly wages rise by almost 50 percent overnight, together with substantial improvements in other benefits and conditions," he says.

"The decision by management to negotiate a fair agreement in LA shows that they recognise the benefit of having a loyal, skilled and secure workforce. Credit must go to the company on this."

Kaine says the TWU will be surveying its members to find out what they want in a new enterprise bargaining agreement with Toll to be negotiated this year.

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