Supermarket giant ALDI has clashed with the Transport Workers Union (TWU), regarding its business practices in a social media post.
Hundreds of truck drivers and members of the TWU protested outside ALDI stores nationwide on Wednesday, demanding ALDI to serve safe rates throughout the supermarket’s supply chain.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, ALDI stated that the TWU are engaging in a series of media stunts “intimidating ALDI employees and further propagating lies and mistruths”.
“As an Australian business employing thousands of people, we will not sit idle while our practices, people and professionalism is misrepresented in the most crass and callous of manners,” the company stated.
“We encourage the TWU to stop harassing our retail employees and start representing the genuine interest of transport operators across Australia.”
TWU is urging ALDI to sign a memorandum of understanding that will ensure that both Transport Operators and Transport Workers in its supply chain will be afforded “agreed standards”.
Michael Kaine TWU national secretary said Aldi are “grappling at straws” in their message posted on social media.
“It shows the nerve we hit with our protests yesterday and the claim we have made demanding better standards in their supply chain,” he said.
Michael said “the truth” is that Aldi drivers have for years raised safety concerns including pressure to drive long hours and safety & hygiene standards at supermarkets and distribution centres.
“Drivers have spoken out about emergency exit doors blocked, fire equipment hemmed in, chaotic food storage, filthy floors, faulty electrics, poor lighting for truck drivers delivering goods and a dangerous flooded yard outside a loading dock,” he said.
In response, ALDI stated in the social media post that “All of these claims are lies and we will not stand accused of such actions”.
The TWU has written to Aldi about these concerns, and on Wednesday Michael wrote to Tom Daunt, ALDI Australia Chief Executive Officer to establish safety rates and standards.
“It is well established that these rates are not simply set by direct employers, but through contracts by clients at the top of the supply chain, the real economic employers,” Michael wrote in his letter.
“The consequences of getting it wrong in this sector are catastrophic – there have already been 21 truck-related fatalities so far this year.”
Michael said ALDI are suing the union in Federal Court to “stop drivers from speaking out about rates and safety”.
ALDI has stated that they believe and uphold safe practises in their business operations.
“All road transport operators deserve a fair wage. All road regulations, particularly relating to fatigue must be met with 100% compliance. All employees and those of our suppliers have a voice and will never be silenced,” ALDI said.
Aldi dropped several key charges just before the hearings ended in November last year.
Aldi informed the Federal court that it is no longer accusing the union of trespass, nuisance or secondary boycott in relation to TWU protests outside Aldi stores, and dropped the charge of damage to reputation as an employer of choice.
“We support the staff who work in Aldi’s stores, they are hard-working shoppies, many of whom fight side-by-side with truck drivers on the need for fairness in the retail sector. Under no circumstances would we intimidate or harass these workers,” Michael said.
The national secretary said it is time for ALDI to end the “rhetoric and the court cases” and come on board for road safety, to be part of the solution to address the high number of fatalities.
The MoU between ALDI and TWU will enforce Safe Rates” Agreement (SRA) with a transport operator.The “Agreed Standards” will be about pay, super, job security and supply chain, workplace rights and consultation, and industry sustainability.
“Big retailers like Aldi can help change our industry and that is why we are submitting our demand in a claim,” Micheal said.
A major agreement between the TWU and Coles has been signed which involves statements of principles to ensure safe and fair conditions for workers in the Coles supply chain and the on-demand economy. A separate charter has been signed previously with Woolworths.
The TWU has already served claims on major airports around the country to address low pay and poor safety standards.
The union will conduct widespread industrial action in transport from June this year as 200 enterprise agreements covering 38,000 transport workers expire.