Truckers’ union exposes ‘disregard for safety’ in Aldi supply chain

A union representing transport workers in Australia has released images and videos of what it alleges are “major safety problems at Aldi”.

The footage and stills released by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) show safety doors blocked, fire equipment restricted, poor food storage, exposed electrical wiring and flooding around a loading dock.

The TWU indicates that these images are “evidence of how safety is being put at risk” at the discount retailer.

When questioned about the source of the images, TWU national secretary Michael Kaine told Inside FMCG that the union has “been contacted by several truck drivers regarding shocking safety breaches they had to witness and endure which working at Aldi”.

“We have taken statements from these drivers and examined the footage. What comes across most strongly though is the frustration these drivers have because they raised all of these safety concerns with Aldi and were ignored time and again. We also have evidence of transport operators in the Aldi supply chain over poor maintenance of trucks, lack of training and drivers not paid appropriately,” he said.

The union released a statement to media on Wednesday saying that its members are protesting in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth today over Aldi’s “refusal to acknowledge their problems with safety”.

“We are protesting today because we want an end to this disregard for safety. We want Aldi to come to the table and discuss with how their supply chain can be made safer,” Kaine said in the statement.

Image supplied by TWU

Commenting on the release from the TWU, an Aldi spokesperson said that it doesn’t condone any of the allegations levelled at the business.

“As any Aldi employee or retail industry leader knows, Aldi maintains the highest standard of compliance in all its operations.  This includes food delivery, storage, waste and safety.  We would never condone any of the allegations levelled at our business.  We are not ignorant to opportunities to improve and if any external or internal party has information regarding poor practices within our business operations they will be investigated with urgency,” a spokesperson for Aldi said in a statement to Inside FMCG on Wednesday.

Aldi announced in April that it is taking the TWU to the Federal Court over what it said is a string of false and misleading claims.

“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 retailer said in a statement.

“The TWU has on multiple occasions accused Aldi of deaths on roads, underpaying employees, knowingly placing employees in harm’s way, violating heavy vehicle regulations, poorly maintaining our transport fleet, ignoring responsibilities within our supply chain and silencing workers. All of these claims are lies and we will not stand accused of such actions. This is why we are in court.”

Aldi said that it has contacted the TWU on “more than ten occasions” to request details of their claims so that the alleged safety concerns can be investigated but said these details have not been forthcoming.

“It is our view that the TWU are more interested in leveraging our good brand for their own influence and political gain than addressing transport safety issues. If the TWU are withholding valid safety claims regarding our operations, they should share them and we’ll investigate them immediately,” the retailer added.

Inside FMCG contacted TWU to clarify whether they had been contacted by Aldi. Kaine said the retailer has “made it clear it does not want to talk to us about the systematic problems in its supply chain”.

“It is so adamant that these talks should not take place that it is taking a costly federal court case against us instead. We have appealed for these discussions to take place and are willing to show Aldi what it will take to make their supply chains safe,” he added.

Kaine described the impending court case as an attempt “to silence” the union.

“This issue is just too important for us to stop speaking out about it. People are dying in truck crashes every week and in many cases these crashes can be linked back to poor systems along the supply chains of wealthy retailers and manufacturers,” he said.

“These companies at the top are putting financial pressure on transport operators and truck drivers through their low cost contracts which is causing trucks to not be maintained and drivers pushed to speed, drive long hours and skip hours. This problem is killing people, destroying communities and devastating families.”

As regards the “big two”, the TWU said it had reached a “major agreement” with Coles to ensure safe and fair conditions for workers in the supply chain and signed a separate charter previously with Woolworths.

The Federal Court case between Aldi and the TWU resumes on October 22.

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