Scrutiny in the U.S. Over the Toll Group’s Low-Road Labor Practices Could Jeopardize Growth Plans
October 24, 2011
A new report The Toll Group: Management Missteps Threaten U.S. Operations & Expansion, says the company’s controversial labor practices could jeopardize its growth opportunities in the American market. Mistreatment and abuse of workers at Summit Logistics, Toll’s freshly-acquired subsidiary in the United States, represents a significant departure from the successful model the company employed in Australia to grow the business.
Sadly, the U.S. management problem may reflect a deeper problem associated with Toll’s pace of acquisitions – namely that the company is losing control of its acquired companies, tolerating inferior operational standards, and allowing easily-resolvable issues to generate negative publicity and political ill will all over the world.
At Toll’s facility in Wilmington, California, for example, the company provides only filthy port-a-potties for workers to use as bathrooms. There is no potable water available, and no sheltered area in which to take breaks or have meals. Not allowing drivers to use the same restroom facilities as office workers relegates them to an ‘inferior status’compared with the white collar employees. When drivers raise concerns about these issues, they are brushed off by a disinterested management and no changes are made.
Fed up with the lack of respect they have received, Toll drivers have decided to exercise their federally protected right to form a union with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The company responded with a series of union-hostile maneuvers
Workers have asserted that Toll has also begun a program of unlawful activity designed to intimidate them into not supporting the Teamsters. Within the past two months, two sets of charges have been filed with the National Labor RelationsBoard (NLRB), the federal agency responsible for enforcing U.S. labor law. These charges, which are currently under investigation, allege that Toll management engaged in unlawful surveillance of worker activity,
Toll’s actions in the U.S. are all the more shocking when one considers the labor-management relations in its home country Australia, where Toll management has a constructive relationship with the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU).
The TWU is also heavily involved in negotiations on the integration of newly acquired companies. Any new companies coming under Toll Group’s umbrella must bring working conditions andwages up to TWU standards.
The cooperative relationship with the TWU was critical to addressing the serious safety concerns with the companies Toll acquired.
Despite the proven benefits of this approach, Toll in the U.S. has continually refused to work cooperatively with the Teamsters Union, which represents 1.4 million workers in North America and is the predominant union in the U.S. transport logistics and warehousing industries. Rather, Toll has instigated a contentious relationship that could impair company relations with port authorities, political leaders and customers.