Australia’s Food, E-Commerce and Postal Supply Chains in Jeopardy as Truckers Begin Strike Actions

Australia’s Food, E-Commerce and Postal Supply Chains in Jeopardy as Truckers Begin Strike Actions

After months of negotiations, a new enterprise bargaining agreement between the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and Toll Group, Australia’s biggest transport operator providing logistics services, has collapsed in recent weeks. Some 94 percent [1] of TWU members voted in favor of taking industrial actions against the company, prompting 7,000 drivers to embark on a 24-hour work stoppage industrial action on August 27. Truckers have been seeking pay increases as well as better job security amid increased competition in the trucking industry as major retailers such as Amazon and Apple operate their own gig-economy delivery services.

Compounding the situation, 8,000 workers from local logistics providers including food and beverage logistics providers Linfox and Bevchain, Australia Post’s subsidiary StarTrack, and FedEx have also begun industrial action ballots and may join the August 27 protest, increasing the potential number of truck drivers on strike to 15,000.  In addition, unconfirmed reports suggested that non-unionized truckers have taken to social media to voice frustrations and are planning to block major interstate highways throughout Australia on August 31 from 09:00 local time. At the time of writing, the Australian Trucking Association has not confirmed nor signaled any forms of support for the alleged planned protest which has attracted the attention of law enforcement with regards to compliance with public health orders.

Truckers’ strike exacerbates logistics operations

The Toll Group has reassured the public that the delivery of goods will not be affected during the industrial action. Despite this, the strike is likely to cause intermittent disruption to deliveries of goods across various industries, including retail, healthcare, chemical, agriculture, mining, and the food and beverage supply chains. The TWU has promised that COVID-19 vaccines and related medical supplies will not be affected. Should StarTrack and FedEx join the strike, postal and parcel delivery delays could also be affected across Australia.

Australia’s supply chains that primarily rely on road freight across the country are in jeopardy as the strike may exacerbate the existing interstate border delays due to ongoing pandemic mobility restrictions. Truckers traveling to and from COVID-19 hotspots have expressed frustration over the regulations. Queensland’s trucking and agriculture industries have recently appealed to the authorities to introduce COVID-19 rapid antigen testing to reduce delays at the New South Wales border.

Truckers’ strike actions are expected to remain a challenge as tensions continue to escalate between truckers and their employers, with any resolution to the collective bargaining agreement remaining a unlikely outcome in the near future. Job security and the declaration of the road freight industry as an essential service remain major stumbling blocks to any negotiated settlement. No further talks have been scheduled between the TWU and Toll Group and more strikes could take place in the future should tuckers’ frustration continue. The Toll Group expects that the strike on August 27 could create residual disruptions in food, fuel, and parcel deliveries that is expected to last until at least August 30. Major supermarket chains such as Coles, Woolworths, and Aldi have warned that the strikes could be potentially be disruptive to the domestic market but also for those in East and Southeast Asia who are dependent on Australia for agricultural exports.

Everstream Analytics customers with business in Australia should consider the following solutions or capabilities to assist them in identifying and monitoring real-time disruptions:

  • Intelligence monitoring capabilities to ensure customers near real-time alerts on developing situations, allow them to conduct risk assessments, and monitor supplier performances.
  • Transportation execution solutions to allow customers to track and monitor cargo delivery schedules, allowing customers to assess and react to any potential cargo delays.

[1] Source: Nick Bonyhady, “Strike at trucking firm from Toll risks food, fuel disruption on Friday”, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/strike-at-trucking-firm-toll-risks-food-fuel-disruption-on-friday-20210823-p58l71.html, accessed on August 26, 2021.

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