Woolies-Linfox deal on truck drivers gets approval

Woolworths' truck drivers will be able to access generous redundancy payments and elect to immediately take up work with Linfox

Woolies-Linfox deal on truck drivers gets approval
Woolies-Linfox deal on truck drivers gets approval
By Brad Gardner | June 7, 2013

Truck drivers affected by Woolworths’ decision to outsource transport operations in Victoria to Linfox will be able to take up positions within the trucking firm.

Under a plan hatched to save 189 drivers from the unemployment line and approved by the Fair Work Commission (FWC), affected Woolworths drivers can access redundancy packages and then begin immediately with Linfox if they choose to.

Woolworths announced earlier this year it was outsourcing its fleet operations at its Mulgrave, Hue and Laverton distribution centres, putting in doubt the jobs of those directly employed by the retailer.

Linfox, Woolworths and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) came up with a proposal for drivers to move across to Linfox by transferring to the company’s enterprise agreement covering its truck drivers.

The Fair Work Commission has approved the plan, meaning drivers under the Woolworths Transport Department (Victoria) Enterprise Agreement will come under the Linfox Road Transport and Distribution Centres National Enterprise Agreement if they decide to accept work with the trucking firm.

"Linfox has brought this application and provided a strong justification for doing so. The TWU, which is covered by both instruments, has consulted with its members and supports the application," Fair Work Commissioner Peter Hampton says.

The FWC must consider if employees will be disadvantaged or an employer will incur significant economic burden when deciding to allow workers to move to a different enterprise agreement when transferring to another company.

Hampton says some of the rates in the Linfox enterprise agreement "are marginally inferior" compared to Woolworths, but the proposal to allow drivers to access redundancy packages and begin work with Linfox swayed the FWC.

"However, in this case, the proposed orders take place in the context of a comprehensive agreement that permits the drivers concerned to access generous redundancy benefits and to make an election to immediately take up the further employment with Linfox," he says.

"In these particular and rather unique circumstances, the employees are not disadvantaged by the making of the orders sought."

Linfox says any Woolworths drivers moving across will not be hauling freight to and from the retailer’s distribution centres.

"This is due to the fact that it has had to make employment arrangements in advance of the anticipated transfer of operational responsibilities," Hampton says.

The commissioner also praised the union, Woolworths and Linfox for negotiating a plan to save the jobs of affected truck drivers, saying they "are to be commended on the constructive manner in which the major issues arising from the outsourcing decision have been handled".

"In particular, this has included facilitating the mutual benefit of allowing the drivers to remain in the transport industry and be readily available to Linfox and permitting them to make a genuine choice in that regard."

Victoria had been the only state in Australia where Woolworths operated its own fleet of trucks. It decided to outsource the function to focus on retailing and adopt a consistent approach across the country.

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