One of the flyers, entitled Stop the Race to the Bottom, left in a trolley at ALDI’s Kilburn store in October 2017, stated that hundreds of people die in truck-related accidents on Australia’s roads every year.
“This is caused by big companies – like Aldi – cutting costs in their contracts,” the document, cited in the Federal Court judgement handed down last week, reads.
“This squeeze is sweating drivers, forcing us to work longer and harder with little chance to break or do maintenance … But transport workers won’t let this carnage continue.”
“Coles and Woolworths are doing the right thing by working with transport workers through our union, the TWU, to address issues in their supply chains…”
The flyer is among several Transport Workers’ Union flyers also issued at the retailer’s South Australian distribution centre at Regency Park and at ALDI stores interstate, as well as press releases and media appearances in 2017 and 2018 to which the supermarket giant took exception.
ALDI launched proceedings against the union alleging trespass, nuisance, breaches of competition and consumer law, and injurious falsehood through the distribution of the documents, later confining its complaint to the latter two.
According to the judgement of Justice Geoffrey Flick, handed down last week, the documents were “likely to mislead” because they accused ALDI of the following:
- Being responsible for road deaths;
- Pressuring its supply chain such that truck maintenance does not occur;
- Attempting to underpay driver by misclassifying them on an enterprise agreement;
- Pressuring trucking companies to meet unsafe deadlines, and encouraging them to speed, drive for long hours and skip mandatory rest breaks;
- Undercutting road safety, and;
- Trying to inhibit free speech by launching the court proceedings.
The only major representation in the documents Flick did not find likely to mislead was that “ALDI is responsible for cutting transport costs and underpaying drivers”.
But ALDI conceded that it had suffered no actual loss or damage as a result of the statements and it failed to convince the court that the union had made its statements out of “malice”.
“Although injury to the business operations of ALDI may have been the inevitable consequence of the conduct of the union, it may be queried whether that necessarily translates to an actual intent to injure and malice,” the judgement reads.
Moreover, the court found that although many of the union’s relevant statements had been likely to mislead, it was not a “trading corporation” and those statements were not made “in trade or commerce”.
“The overall conclusion is that the claims for relief advanced by ALDI fail (and) the proceeding should be dismissed.”
ALDI has established 19 stores in Adelaide and one in Mount Barker since opening its first store in South Australia in 2016.
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