Sunday, July 27, 2008

Supermarkets brace for truckie strike

SUPERMARKET chains are bracing for serious shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables this week amid fears truckies could strike as early as tonight.

Thousands of truckies, outraged at low pay rates and soaring fuel and registration costs, have vowed to bring the country to its knees from midnight tonight, refusing to drive for two weeks.

The Australian Long Distance Owners and Drivers Association and the National Road Transport Forum are calling it a nationwide strike, but a Transport Workers Union spokesman said they were a local "fringe group" and the action was limited to drivers in Queensland.
One organiser said up to 80 per cent of owner drivers were facing bankruptcy and they were prepared to take the Queensland economy down with them.
Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have admitted they are stockpiling some fresh food items but said there was little they could do without knowing the extent of the shutdown, with no clear estimates of how big it could get.
Wholesalers at Brisbane Markets and Queensland's largest independent grocery chains were also buying what extra stock they could amid fears the protest had "taken on a life of its own".
Trucking groups, unions, government and police were last week in negotiations to appease truckies, who say they have been pushed to the wall by unworkable contracts and new laws and fines to combat driver fatigue and road fatalities.
They also claim large transport companies are refusing to pass on fuel levies to drivers despite a 50 per cent increase in fuel bills in the last 12 months.
Woolworths spokesman Luke Schepen said the company was monitoring the situation closely.
"It certainly has the potential to cause some inconvenience. In some cases we do have some extra stock in certain products and lines," Mr Schepen said.
Industry leaders said the so-called "park-up" and a series of blockades could cost retailers around the state millions of dollars in lost revenue.
The Retailers Association executive director Scott Driscoll said independent retailers were bitterly disappointed they had been placed in such a precarious position by state and federal governments and strike organisers.
"Unless this gets sorted out there will be massive problems which could mean catastrophe for some businesses," Mr Driscoll said.


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