Thursday, June 14, 2012

Freight Forwarding and Trucking Group Issue Withering Condemnation of Teamsters Union

Toll Global Statement on 'Host of False Accusations'
Shipping News Feature

US - Toll Global Forwarding – America, part of Toll Group has issued a detailed statement on the cases brought by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union which have now been dismissed by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The trucking and freight forwarding company state that the media campaign by the union regarding its treatment of employees has been grossly misleading and damaging to public perception of the group.

The NLRB has cleared Toll of all allegations of improper suspensions and termination of employees in retaliation for their union sympathies. The NLRB recently dismissed two more charges against Toll Global Forwarding – America made by the Teamsters, including a claim of the unlawful surveillance and dismissal of a female driver in retaliation for her union sympathies.

The driver in question abandoned her vehicle and left her full load unattended on the side of a four-lane highway in a no parking zone to enter a McDonald’s restaurant, claiming it was because she had taken ill and needed to use the restroom. A subsequent investigation found the driver waited in line at McDonald’s, ordered food and left, and not using the restroom at all. In line with company policy her employment was terminated for abandoning her truck and its load in a dangerous and illegal area, and failing to notify the appropriate staff.

Toll says the rulings clear it from a host of false accusations levelled throughout a nine month campaign by the Teamsters union. Toll Group Managing Director Brian Kruger welcomed the latest decisions saying:

“The latest rulings prove, as we have said all along, that the Teamsters’ campaign was purposely misleading. It is disappointing these claims have been believed by so many, including media outlets that published these baseless accusations as fact before investigations by the regulator had been completed. Toll worked hard to protect its employees, customers and the Toll name despite these false allegations from the Teamsters union, and has been able to demonstrate to the NLRB it is a law-abiding company. But my main concern is that our employees, customers and stakeholders in LA and across the world were misled by this campaign.”

The history of the disputes seem to have started in earnest following the vote on the 11th April when a majority of Toll’s port drivers voted to be represented by the Teamsters union following an NLRB ballot. Toll recognised the decision and said it would negotiate with the union in good faith. The ballot followed a nine month campaign by the Teamsters to unionise the driving section of Toll’s west coast drayage (port haulage) operations.

Initial charges by the Teamsters were withdrawn following NLRB rulings that dismissals and surveillance techniques violated US labour laws. The NLRB found that the sackings of employees Xiomara Perez and Steve Chavez were lawful and not in retaliation for their union activity due to lack of evidence. Some decisions will possibly go to appeal if considered worthy of merit.

In October 2011, Toll laid off 26 drivers due to the seasonal decline in activity that routinely occurs in this part of the industry during that time. The Teamsters then filed an unfair labour practice charge with the NLRB, however following thorough investigation, the NLRB dismissed the charges, finding Toll’s decision to layoff the drivers was based on legitimate business needs. The NLRB also rejected the Teamsters’ attempt to appeal the decision.

Toll points out that their drivers in California earn an average of close to US$20 per hour with overtime and incentive pay, which, it says, is above the average per hour salary of all other heavy load drivers at other trucking companies in the Los Angeles and Long Beach area and, with the exception of GFC-affected 2009, has increased salaries every year for at least the past 20 years.

In December 2011, California’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) audited Toll’s Wilmington, California truck parking yard, the same yard the Teamsters accused Toll of operating in third world conditions, and found “no violation of any standard, rule, order or regulation” set in the California Code of Regulations or the California Labor Code retaliation for their direct union involvement. The portion of the charge alleging violations related to the suspension of employees was withdrawn by the Teamsters on 29 December 2011.

There are several accusations and cross accusations on record and the bad feeling between the two parties can be gauged by the tone of the Toll statement. Hopefully the two will be able to resolve the outstanding disputes in the fullness of time.