The US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has cleared Toll Global Forwarding – America, part of Toll Group, 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 International Brotherhood of Teamsters union, including a claim of the unlawful surveillance of, and termination 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. She was terminated for abandoning her truck and its load in a dangerous and illegal area, and failing to notify the appropriate staff. This was in line with company policy.

The rulings clear Toll from a host of false accusations leveled against it throughout a nine month campaign by the Teamsters union.

Toll Group Managing Director Brian Kruger welcomed the latest decisions, praising the professionalism of Toll’s US-based staff throughout the high profile campaign.

“The latest rulings prove, as we have said all along, that the Teamsters’ campaign was purposely misleading,” Mr Kruger said. “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.”

On 11 April a majority of Toll’s port drivers voted to be represented by the Teamsters union. Toll recognises the decision and will negotiate with the union in good faith.

Background
A majority of Toll’s west coast drivers voted to be represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union following an 11 April US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ballot at Toll’s Wilmington, California site.

The ballot followed a nine month campaign by the Teamsters to unionise the driving section of Toll’s west coast drayage (port haulage) operations.

Toll Group recognises its employees’ decision and welcomes the conclusion of this campaign.

Teamsters unsuccessful on all claims alleging improper suspensions, layoffs and terminations

Of the charges the Teamsters union took to the NLRB, none, including subsequent appeals, have been won by the Teamsters:

1) Withdrawn – The first charge brought against Toll claimed Toll suspended employees and disciplined others in 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.

2) Withdrawn – The second charge claimed Toll solicited and promised to remedy grievances, made coercive statements and engaged in heightened surveillance of employees. The Teamsters withdrew the portion of the charge related to heightened scrutiny of employees on 29 December 2011.

3) Dismissed – The third charge claimed Toll had laid employees off in retaliation for their union sympathies. That charge was dismissed by the NLRB on 29 December 2011, and a subsequent appeal by the Teamsters regarding the NLRB's ruling was denied on 28 February 2012. The Teamsters continue to make this false claim even though the charge has long since been dismissed and the appeal denied.

4) Dismissed – The fourth charge related to recall rights of employees in retaliation for their union sympathies and stems from the same lay-off in which the NLRB has already found that Toll did not violate the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB dismissed this charge on 26 March 2012. The Teamsters has appealed however the NLRB has not yet issued a ruling on the appeal.

5) Withdrawn – The fifth charge related to claims against Toll of unlawful surveillance. The Teamsters withdrew this charge on Friday 20 April 2012, and then re-filed the charge on 27 April 2012. Toll has responded to the re-filed charge and is awaiting a decision from the NLRB.

6) Dismissed – The sixth charge, filed on 14 March 2012, claimed Toll unlawfully engaged in surveillance of, and terminated, employee Xiomara Perez in retaliation for her union support. The NLRB dismissed this charge for lack of evidence on 30 May 2012.

7) Dismissed – The seventh and final charge, filed on 28 March 2012, alleged Toll unlawfully terminated employee Steve Chavez in retaliation for his union activity. The NLRB dismissed this charge for lack of evidence on 30 May 2012.

The only remaining item is a complaint consolidating the remaining unsubstantiated claims from the first and second charges. The NLRB has not yet set a deadline regarding this, and Toll looks forward to presenting evidence to disprove all allegations if and when the NLRB decides to proceed.

These latest two dismissals reaffirm that the claims made against Toll by the Teamsters throughout their nine month campaign have no merit.

Seasonal layoffs

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 labor practice charge with the US National Labor Relations Board (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. With business improving in the following months, Toll was able to recall a number of those drivers to work. Of the 26 drivers listed in the allegations, 21 were called back to work on a seniority basis. Of those 21 drivers, 17 accepted the offer of more work.

Wages

Toll drivers in California earn an average of close to US$20 per hour with overtime and incentive pay, which 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.

Toll recognises the importance of a skilled and talented workforce and aims to maintain its competitiveness by continuing to balance payment of above-average wages with the running of sustainable operations. The wages Toll Global Forwarding – America pays are competitive within the industry and Toll has made many improvements to employee wages, benefits and working conditions to ensure this, including:

• In July 2011 Toll increased salaries for all US employees and, with the exception of GFC-affected 2009, has increased salaries every year for at least the past 20 years.

• Toll Global Forwarding – America’s health plans and retirement plans are also among the best in the industry. In July 2011 Toll implemented health plan improvements at a cost of more than US$300,000 to Toll.

• In January 2012 Toll started a co-contribution retirement benefits plan.

Toll provides safe, sanitary facilities

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.


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