StarTrack workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking strike action if the company refuses to provide job security guarantees including the same pay and conditions for labour hire workers, caps on the use of lower paid outside hire, and offering work to employees before it is contracted out.
The 90% vote to take action provides protection under the Fair Work Act for approximately 2000 StarTrack TWU members – almost 70% of the total workforce – to go on strike.
It comes as negotiations over workplace agreements at several major transport operators mounted attacks on good, secure jobs, forcing thousands of workers to pursue the right to take industrial action. A protected action ballot opened at Linfox today and another began at Bevchain on Wednesday. FedEx workers are currently voting, until 5pm, Friday 17 September.
The attacks on job security coincide with a rise in work being contracted out to lower paid workers. StarTrack outside hire volumes have jumped to 70% of the total workforce in yards in SA and 50% in Queensland and Canberra, while only one in every eight workers servicing air freight in WA is a direct employee.
The TWU last week launched legal action against StarTrack and labour hire company APS Transport over the unfair sacking of Kim White after she queried a drop in her pay. Kim was told in an email: “StarTrack notified APS this year that they wanted us to revert back to Award conditions for all sites rather than their EBA [Enterprise Agreement]”.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine congratulated workers on taking a stand.
“StarTrack workers have their eyes wide open to the game being played with their livelihoods. At the same time as the company floods yards with contractors with fewer rights, it refuses the crucial job security guarantees employees deserve. Workers have no choice but to fight for their jobs and they’ve sent that message through a strong vote for the right to go on strike. The ball is in StarTrack’s court and we implore the major transport operator to act responsibly,” he said.
The TWU has called on the Federal Government to urgently implement the recommendations of a Senate Report to establish “an independent body” to “set universal, binding standards” in road transport. Regulation of this sort would eliminate gig economy models of exploitation at the likes of AmazonFlex and Uber, which are pressuring transport operators to slash the pay and conditions of their employees.
“Transport has become a boom and bust industry. While demand has surged, good, secure jobs are in steep decline under pressure from unregulated, exploitative business models like AmazonFlex. Transport operators are scrambling to compete but no matter how deep the cut to their workforces, they will not win the race to the bottom.
“The solution is sitting on a Parliament shelf. A regulatory body to set minimum, binding standards in transport will protect workers, businesses and the economy. It will make Australia’s deadliest industry safer and more sustainable. It’s time to act,” said Kaine.
Notes on negotiations
- Linfox and Bevchain workers have been successful in removing the threat of an underclass of employees on b-grade rates of pay, mirroring the withdrawal of the same threat from Toll after workers voted to take strike action.
- Workers’ jobs are still threatened at Linfox and Bevchain because of the increased reliance on outside hire at worksites across the country.
- The TWU has for the last three years sought evidence from Linfox that it is not in breach of the current agreement which limits the use of outside hire following a rise in work being contracted out. For the last two years, the company has refused to replace employees who leave the business despite growing demand.
- FedEx and the TWU will hold crisis talks on job security next week ahead of the protected action ballot closing on Friday 17 September, which if successful would give approximately 4000 workers the right to go on strike.
- The TWU is now negotiating separately with Toll and Allegro following the transfer of business on 1 September.
- TWU delegates met Allegro management including CEO Christine Holgate on Wednesday. The company quickly moved to begin negotiations with the first meeting to be held Thursday 16 September.
- A meeting between the TWU and Toll Logistics took place yesterday. Workers pushed the company to provide job security guarantees and abandon a move to fixed term contracts, which have still not been resolved. Another meeting is scheduled for 21 September.
- The TWU will today write to StarTrack to call an urgent meeting to attempt to resolve job security issues. Of the 70% who voted in the ballot, 90% voted in support of taking action. Protected Action Ballots are conducted independently, in this case by the Australian Electoral Commission.