Retail giant ALDI has failed in a legal bid against what it called a “crass and callous” misrepresentation of its practices by the Transport Workers Union.
The TWU had called out the retailer in an ad campaign describing the retailer as pushing truck drivers to drive long hours, operate trucks they felt weren’t maintained to adequate safety standards, forcing drivers to skip safety procedures and underpaying staff.
ALDI responded by taking the union to court, accusing them of misleading or deceptive conduct and injurious falsehood. And in a statement on the case released last month, denied the TWU’s claims, calling them “lies” and outlining their commitment to worker safety.
However the Federal Court dismissed the charges on Friday, but noted should the union have been a trade or commerce business (which would have seen it held to different accountability regarding the statements), it could have been a different outcome.
An ALDI spokesperson said they felt vindicated by the judgement, saying they felt it had been clearly stated by the court that the TWU’s conduct had been “misleading and deceptive” and reflected ALDI’s numerous attempts to contact the TWU.
“We do the right thing in our transport operations not because of pressure from outside parties or to meet regulatory requirements, we focus on the highest safety standards because it is consistent with one of our company’s core values- Responsibility,” they said.
“The judgement determined that this legal action was justified in protecting ALDI’s commercial interests and was never about silencing Australian workers. All ALDI employees and the employees of our business partners have the right to freely join unions.”
“We have not, and will not, work to silence the voice of Australia’s union movement. We simply demand that they tell the truth. It is disappointing that a legal technicality appears to allow the TWU to peddle lies and mistruths with impunity. We encourage anyone with interest in the case to refer to the published judgement.”
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine described the decision as an “important day for truck drivers”.
“Aldi, a global retailer, tried to take on Australian truck drivers in a lengthy and costly legal battle and it failed. This case shows that companies like Aldi will try every law in the land to shut workers up but eventually the truth comes out. We will now write to Aldi asking them to meet us and discuss how they can make their supply chains safe. We hope they will take us up on this offer and help save lives,” he said.
“Trucking is Australia’s deadliest industry and Government reports constantly state the number of people killed in truck crashes is disproportionally high. It is incumbent on every retailer, manufacturer and oil company to ensure that their goods are being transported in the safest possible way, otherwise people die. Truck drivers every day are being pressured to speed, drive long hours and skip their mandatory rest breaks because of the pressure to keep transport costs down. Aldi instead of silencing drivers needs to listen to them and make their supply chains safer.”