Wollongong couriers sale plan angers drivers

Wollongong couriers Barnetts has accused the transport union of whipping up hysteria among its drivers over claims the proposed sale of part of the company could leave drivers out of pocket.

The union claims more than 20 Barnetts truck drivers could lose thousands of dollars if flagged plans to sell Linehaul, the branch of Barnetts that owns many of the company's vehicles, goes through.

In Fair Work Commission proceedings on a separate industrial matter on Thursday, Barnetts legal representatives signalled the company's intent to sell Linehaul.

TWU Wollongong official Nick McIntosh said the union was concerned drivers' existing equity in their trucks may not be recognised by Linehaul's future owners. He claimed many drivers had been making payments to eventually own the trucks they drive.

"These guys could lose out, their equity disappears, and they will have to lease those trucks back again," Mr McIntosh said.

However, a Barnetts representative denied the union's claims, stating drivers were under a "bailment agreement", operating as franchisees or contractors and paying a percentage of their earnings for the use of the truck.

He said "a bailment agreement does not provide an equity ownership in a vehicle".

The Barnetts representative also denied union claims Linehaul was being sold to pay a $3 million tax debt, saying the union had "misinformed drivers" and caused "unnecessary and unsubstantiated hysteria".

"The suggestion that Linehaul Pty Ltd has a tax bill is simply untrue," the representative told the Mercury.

The TWU is set to lodge proceedings in the Supreme Court to force any future owners of Linehaul to honour the equity drivers have built up in their trucks.

The Barnetts representative said existing agreements would be maintained, even in the event of a sale.

"Any commercial decision undertaken to sell part or all of Linehaul Pty Ltd will be required to honour the service agreements ... and continue to provide franchisees ... with a bailment option."

More than 70 workers across the company work with Linehaul trucks, with about 40 working from the Wollongong depot.

Mr McIntosh claimed between 20 and 30 drivers had equity in their trucks that may be affected.

Mark Lenard, a Barnetts driver for 22 years, said workers wanted some certainty over their future and the future of their trucks.

"I might lose a truck worth $60,000 and all the payments I've made in the three years since I got it," he said.

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