Australian Unions Accuse Aldi Of Attacking Workers Free Speech!

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THE Australian Transport Workers’ Union has accused Aldi of attacking free speech by pursuing a Federal Court case to stop truck drivers from protesting over its unsafe practices and to restrict the union from publishing information on the rates and conditions of any transport workers in its supply chain.

Aldi told the Federal Court today it wanted to pursue the case, despite being turned down for an injunction last week. ‘Aldi is trying to use bullying tactics to silence truck drivers and their supporters in highlighting the problems with safety in the Aldi supply chain. But drivers will not give up. They have the right to demand safe workplaces, safe roads and fair conditions. Wealthy retailers must take responsibility for their low cost transport contracts which see truck drivers under pressure to cut safety corners by driving long hours, speeding and skipping their mandatory rest breaks.

‘This pressure is literally killing people on our roads,’ said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

Aldi last Wednesday sought a court injunction following a peaceful protest of 100 truck drivers and supporters in Adelaide.

The court in turning the wealthy retailer down said the action was a trade union’s ‘core function’ and acknowledged it was part of the TWU’s push for better conditions for truck drivers following the Federal Government’s abolition of an independent tribunal investigating safety and pay in trucking.

A protest of 500 truck drivers and supporters was held last Thursday at an Aldi store in Mt Druitt, Sydney. This is about being able to stand up and speak out for fairness and safety. Truck crash fatalities are increasing as are the number of truck drivers being killed. Aldi has got to take responsibility for the role it plays.

‘The Federal Government must also shoulder the blame: it tore down an independent tribunal last year which was holding wealthy retailers like Aldi to account for safety in transport. The Government’s own report showed the tribunal was cutting truck crash deaths by 28 per cent,’ Sheldon added.

Fatal crashes involving articulated trucks have increased by over 7% this year, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. Safe work Australia data show that 40% of all workplace deaths involved transport workers. This is up from one in three transport workers last year and one in four in 2015.

Aldi is separately appealing a Federal Court decision which struck down a bogus enterprise agreement voted on by just two members of staff. The agreement denied minimum award rates and classified drivers of large trucks as store workers. Truck driver Frank Black who attended the Adelaide protest said drivers felt they had no choice but to publicly highlight problems in Aldi’s supply chain. ‘What have Aldi got to hide? They need to stop trying to silence drivers and come to the table and talk about safety,’ he said.

• More than 92% of nurses and aged workers responding to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s (ANMF) national workforce survey say they are being asked to care for the same number of nursing home residents with less staff or less rostered care hours.

The online survey was launched in order for the ANMF to determine the true extent of cuts to care hours in residential facilities across the country.The survey asks aged care nurses and care staff to identify cuts to care hours at the facilities where they work and how it’s impacting vulnerable residents.

After being launched in early August, over 744 aged care nurses and carers have responded to the survey. The largest number of respondents (274) has been from Queensland, where 11 nurses have been sacked and over 2000 care hours have been slashed by providers.

• 92% of respondents are being asked to care for the same number of residents with less staff, less hours;

• 90% say current staffing levels aren’t adequate;

• 71% don’t think the ratio of registered nurses to other care staff is adequate;

• 89% don’t think the ratio of AIN’s/carers/PCW’s to residents is adequate.

‘Aged care nurses and carers are telling us what’s really going on inside nursing homes across Australia, as a result of registered and enrolled nurses being sacked and thousands of care hours being cut,’ ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said today. They’re telling us how it is affecting daily care they can provide for elderly residents. There’s inadequate numbers of registered and enrolled nurses and personal care staff, which means that bathing and feeding along with pain and dementia management are all being compromised. As nurses, that’s a great concern to us, as it would be for residents and their families.

‘The survey shows that some providers are again citing financial sustainability as the rationale for nursing cuts, as a result of reduced federal funding, but the Government is putting the blame squarely back on the providers – and it’s the residents who are caught in the middle. The real problem is that without any mandated staffing levels or care hours in aged care, the Federal Government is allowing providers to determine “adequate” levels of care to meet the basic needs of their residents and as we’ve recently seen, some providers simply cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

‘Nurses are being sacked and care hours dramatically reduced and with less nurses, fewer carers and reduced hours, workloads for staff are increasing to dangerous levels and ultimately, it means care is being compromised and residents are suffering.’

• Employers who either knowingly or unwittingly hold back superannuation are to face tougher scrutiny and penalties. Employers have robbed Australian workers of about $17 billion since 2009 by dodging their obligation to pay the compulsory superannuation guarantee.

• Rogue employers short-changed staff on average $2.81bn each year between 2009-2015.

• Worst offenders include: small-medium businesses in construction, retail, food services, accommodation.

• ATO deals with around 20,000 complaints from both current and former employees a year.

An audit by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) shows rogue employers short-changed staff by an average $2.81 billion every year between 2009 and 2015, hitting a peak of $3.3 billion in 2014-2015. According to the ATO audit, the worst offenders include small-to-medium businesses in the construction, retail, food services and accommodation sectors.

ATO deputy commissioner for superannuation James O’Halloran said employers who either knowingly or unwittingly hold back superannuation will now face tougher scrutiny and penalties.

‘My message is to do the right thing and pay employees their entitlements,’ he said.

‘We have at least 150 staff doing super guarantee work full time. Any level of non-compliance is of concern given the impact it has on employees. If we find there has been intentional disregard, we will apply penalties and take people to court as necessary.

‘There is a penalty regime of up to 200 per cent of the outstanding amount of super guarantee.’

The ATO has been investigating ‘the superannuation guarantee gap’ – the value of the current 9.5 per cent superannuation guarantee payment required by law and the contributions employers actually make into retirement funds.

Over six years – between 2009 and 2015 – the ATO found a gross gap of about $17 billion because 5 per cent of sometimes-unscrupulous employers evaded the payment. However, the ATO said that since 2010, more than $2 billion has been recovered and transferred into employee superannuation accounts. Legislation to close a legal loophole is to be introduced.