The crisis in trucking has deepened as thousands more transport workers prepare to fight back attacks to their jobs with strike applications at Linfox and Bevchain. The company proposals echo those at Toll, StarTrack and FedEx which would allow work to be outsourced and introduce a lower paid, insecure workforce.
There are now more than 15,000 truck drivers heading towards strikes after talks broke down between TWU members and five major transport companies over a push from transport operators to engage lower paid, insecure workers. The attack on jobs comes amid crushing pressure to cut rates from wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies along with the competitive threat from Uber-style exploitation at AmazonFlex.
Today the Fair Work Commission will receive applications from workers at Linfox and Bevchain to hold votes take industrial action if companies refuse to abandon their threats to job security. This would involve more than 2000 workers in the food and alcohol supply chains serviced by Linfox and Bevchain.
A 24-hour strike involving 7,000 Toll workers is planned for this Friday after the company refused TWU’s calls to abandon a proposal which would decimate good, permanent jobs by bringing in new employees on precarious, short-term contracts and outside hire on lower pay. On Tuesday, 2,000 StarTrack workers began voting on taking action, while a ballot for 4,000 FedEx workers opens next week.
A critical dispute at both Linfox and Bevchain is the proposed introduction of a second-grade workforce on lower pay and conditions which would ultimately squeeze out the jobs of current workers. Toll withdrew a similar proposal after workers voted 94% in favour of strikes. Further attacks on wages at Linfox and Bevchain include shift changes and a refusal to allocate work to permanent employees before outside hire.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said transport workers are doing whatever they can to fight for good, safe jobs while the Federal Government remains silent.
“Transport workers are doing the right thing. It takes guts to stand up to your employer and strength to walk off the job, but they know they have no choice. If transport companies push ahead and flood truck yards with low paid, stressed, precarious workers, it will eradicate good, safe jobs in Australia’s deadliest industry.
“While the Federal Government remains a tight-lipped bystander, transport workers are exercising their flawed industrial rights to try to keep supply chains from imploding.
“Transport is facing a tsunami of underemployment. Wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies are literally raking in the billions while shaving costs off the movement of their goods around the country. The impact of this has been an undercurrent in transport for years, and now a deadly swell has arrived.
“Transport companies are under pressure from a constant squeeze on rates from the likes of Amazon and Aldi, but rather than facing off the cost-cutting to ensure the work can be done safely and viably, they’re passing the buck onto workers through attempts to replace decent jobs with an insecure workforce.
“It is no coincidence that workers across several major transport companies are facing the same attacks. This should be a wake-up call to the Federal Government about the crisis in trucking that workers warned was occurring,” he said.
Retailers globally have boomed since the pandemic hit with Amazon announcing profits up 224% to $US8 billion in just the last quarter. Apple said its profits have more than doubled to US$23.6 billion while Aldi’s annual revenue in 2019 was $US109 billion.
The TWU has filed claims on 50 retailers operating in Australia, demanding they lift standards to ensure fairness and safety in transport.
The Federal Government tore down an independent tribunal five years ago which was investigating risks to safety in road transport caused by a financial squeeze on transport by wealthy retailers like Amazon and Aldi. Since then, 205 truck drivers have been killed.