moving closer to Vision 2035

TWU National Council met in Fremantle this year to discuss the campaigns underway that are delivering the unions 2035 Vision for better jobs and conditions for transport workers. Council met over four days in May and also focused on the challenges facing the transport industry.


Keynote speeches during the week will include WA State Premier Mark McGowan, Labor Party infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus and TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.




Wage theft is endemic in Australiaso at our National Council we called for it to be made a crime carrying a jail term. In recent public exposés, 7-Eleven, Dominos and Caltex were shown to have engaged in chronic underpayment of their workers. In transport, wage theft has an added destructive element. It is creating financial pressure on truck drivers that ultimately kills people by forcing drivers to speed, drive long hours and skip mandatory rest breaks just to put food on the table.


The problem is not just theft of wages. A report by Industry Super Australia shows in 2013-2014 employers failed to pay $5.6 billion in super payments. The report shows transport was identified as one of the worst industries for non-payment of super.


Currently there is not real deterrent to steal from your workers. When a boss steals from a worker it is referred to as 'underpayment' and they reach a settlement with the Fair Work Ombudsman to repay the money. The worst that can happen to such employers is that they are asked to pay back what they owe to those who complain. This is an incentive to see what you can get away with. Following our National Council, the TWU Vic/Tas branch succeeded in getting a motion passed at the Victorian Labor Party conferencegetting us a step closer to achieving proper redress for underpaid workers.




An important initiative was announced to tackle the scourge of mental health problems among transport workers. A survey released showed: over one in five truck drivers has suffered from mental health problems.


We discussed the problems causing this, including the stresses of the job. The long hours away from family; the stresses this puts on relationships; low pay and poor working conditions; and high injury and fatality rates.


Leon Ruri, a former truck driver and now an organizer at our WA branch, summed up how the job and the many long hours spent alone compound mental health problems. “The one thing that spins quicker than the axles on the truck is your mindhe said.


Charlie Nicols, a truck driver, bravely spoke out about his own experience with mental health issues and how important it is for people to have access to help when they need it.


Airport workers are also vulnerable to some of these workplace pressures. An individuals mental health cannot be good if they are forced to sleep between split shifts on a roll-up bed under a baggage carousel, as we saw with Aerocare workers recently.


This initiative will see us working with Beyond Blue and training organisers and delegates across our union to make sure they are equipped to deal with mental health issues among workers.




Council was updated on the important work being done across the union on our road transport campaign. Whether it is in our bargaining with the major companies we deal with or taking the fight to the clients and the economic employers at the top, the fight for safe rates and to stop the world-wide race to the bottom is heating up.


The international dimension was also stressed with the importance of ensuring economic employers are held to account not just here in Australia but around the world.




We took to the street of Fremantle to protest at an Aldi store, a wealthy client which is refusing to even acknowledge its role in making road transport unsafe. Over 150 WA delegates and our national council blocked roads outside the Aldi store to highlight the unfair wages for truck drivers in the Aldi supply chain which are creating safety problems and risking lives on the roads.




The race to the bottom here in Australia is real. Not only do we have the example of Aerocare, forcing workers onto low pay, split shifts and guaranteeing them just 60 hours a week. But other companies are now in a rush to copy them.


We heard from brave delegates willing to speak out and challenge these conditions.


Our fight on this is taking place on a new level, and is now including Super Industry Funds which are putting companies on notice that they will not invest in companies which exploit their workforce.


We also heard about the international dimension of the aviation fight and how other unions globally are fighting for better jobs and against the race to the bottom at our airports.




During National Council we also launched a new group of supporters in our road transport campaign - Survivors and Families For Education and Reform Coalition - who are intrinsic to our movement.


The supporters who have lost loved ones in truck crashes have given us over the years the impetus to keep going and to fight for safer roads. The stories they tell of the loss of their husbands, brothers and in the case of Jasmine Payget, her little 6-year-old boy, have galvanized us to not accept the setbacks but to fight harder.




We debated the future of work for transport workers. It was great to hear sobering presentations from learned colleagues like Dr Jim Stanford who told us this talk of anew economyis in fact nothing newwe are still fighting for dignity and security in our jobs.


We heard from Assoc Prof Victor Gekara who warned if we automate everything well be robbing ourselves of dignity. Adjunct Prof Igor Nossar explained the hope of regulating the new economy through previous successes of holding the supply chain to account.


We heard first hand on the ground what life is like for food delivery riders and of the important campaigns other unions are involved in to protect workers in the on-demand economy.




On the final evening of our council we presented the National Council Award to three women who have galvanised our road transport campaign - Lisa Sawyer, Lystra Tagliaferri and Suzanne de Beer.


Though they have lost their husbands and brother in a horrific truck crash they have kept on fighting so that other families will not be left devastated by truck crashes.


They came with us to Canberra and told politicians from across the political spectrum why it was so important to back the setting up of the Tribunal, to investigate the supply chain and hold clients to account.


They helped us ram trollies into Coles headquarters in Melbourne during a protest to demand that the retailer take responsibility for its role in risking safety.


They questioned - and kept questioningWesfarmers top management, the bosses of Coles, at the companys AGM over why they continued to ignore the terrible working conditions of drivers in their supply chain.


They have been there with us through thick and thin, inspiring us and making us more and more determined to keep fighting for better conditions for our drivers so they are not forced to take risks on the roads.


We remember the loved ones they lost and we vow to keep fighting for their legacy.

For more photos of the TWU National Council 2017, please click this link.


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