A list of issues as long as your arm suggests Toll is failing to properly manage its operations.

Last month, Toll Senior Legal Council Damian Sloan wrote to the Teamsters about the long-running struggle LA Port drivers have waged for a safe, clean workplace and a collective agreement. ‘Toll is not anti-union,’ the legal eagle wrote in the first sentence of the letter. Remember those words as your read this article.

The Toll letter indicated that the company would use a horses-for-courses approach in its negotiations with the American drivers’ representatives. Mr Sloan wrote, ‘… you seem to expect that Toll will engage with the Teamsters in the same manner in which it engages with the TWU in Australia … any such expectation would be unrealistic … the environment in which we will be negotiating with the Teamsters is very different to that existing in Australia, in terms of applicable laws, Toll’s competitive position and market share, Toll’s financial performance and so on.’

‘And so on’! Well, Australian drivers have a message for Toll: a driver is a driver, regardless of what passport he or she carries. Industrial rights don’t drop off with the continental shelf!
Back at home there is a constellation of problems across Queensland that defies any interpretation that these are single-yard anomalies. What we have is a pattern of managerial intimidation, inflexibility, and a general bad business sense.

At Toll NQX Mackay, the company refuses to pay drivers the zone allowance given to counterparts in Gladstone and Emerald — and the mechanics in the shed next door!
At first the company said it was because the cost-of-living pressures were different, but of course that is patently false, and it doesn’t explain why the mechanics receive the allowance. So then the company claimed that the allowance applied only to sites with recruitment and retention problems.

Here are the facts. In the first half of 2012, the company inducted 85 drivers, and the ratio of permanents to casuals is 20:80. If there were no problem with recruitment and retention that ratio would be reversed — and there wouldn’t be an attrition rate of 140 per cent!

As one driver put it so well, ‘It’s a f—king revolving door here.’

There has been no consultation with the workforce or your union. Mackay NQX management has decided on a draconian approach to its relations with drivers:

  • It is now forbidden to swear. If a driver swears, a written warning is given. Three warnings lead to a dismissal.
  • An employee went to payroll to query a 10-hour discrepancy in his pay. He was given a written warning for breaking protocol.
  • Jobs are given to mates, with no advertising of positions, which contravenes Toll’s own policy.
  • Drivers who are sick have been told they must ring their supervisor and tell him exactly what is wrong with them and exactly how long they will be off work.

This is too absurd for words. Supervisors are expected to act like GPs — and drivers like nuns! It is management by announcement. When your union put questions to the site manager about it, drivers received letters saying union meetings are now banned.

Under these circumstances, drivers have been left with no option but to initiate the dispute-resolution procedure.

Even if the company were to take a more reasonable approach to employee relations, it would be difficult to make a difference when managers are not there for the long run. A Toll Resources Cloncurry manager, having dismissed two drivers recently, has himself moved on. And a former manager at NQX Mackay has been promoted to a position in Japan.

Still in Mackay, at Toll IPEC, I received intelligence from a driver that management informed him not to join the union or talk to TWU officials because he would be out of a job if he did. Why aren’t they embracing unionism in the workplace like other depots do? It is part of the EBA and it works well elsewhere – if there is good will on both sides, something which is lacking from Toll IPEC Mackay management.

Meanwhile, at Toll Intermodal Townsville, drivers were incredulous when management banned trucks from taking part in May Day marches henceforth. The company got stroppy because the prime movers had union banners and placards on them in this year’s march. It looks like management needs to go and take Business 101, paying particular attention to the value of public and community relations. This petty, foolish decision won’t soon be forgotten by drivers.

At Toll NQX Townsville a driver was misdiagnosed in a TruckSafe medical. He spent $3,000 of his money on specialists to correct the misdiagnosis, and he is out-of-pocket $1,000 after claiming all that is available under Medicare. That’s $1,000 he can’t spend on mortgage payments, trips with his wife, or outings with the grandkids. This driver is 25-year veteran with an impeccable record. By refusing to reimburse him, the company is saying that it doesn’t admit responsibility for its mistakes and it doesn’t respect its loyal drivers.
What assessment of the TruckSafe programme is happening? It is known that there are problems; what is being done to correct them?

There’s a former MFL driver at Toll Intermodal Cairns who is being paid on a B Rate. Your organiser Janine Aitken is looking into the matter, and correspondence has been sent to Toll HQ. If the matter isn’t resolved, we’ll be taking the matter through the dispute-resolution procedure under the agreement.

All of these problems are solvable. And they could have been avoided entirely if the company stopped to think, ‘How would I feel if this were happening to me?’

The message to management is clear: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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