The plan will involve a partnership with Beyond Blue and training across the union to ensure organisers and delegates are equipped to deal with mental health issues among workers.
The initiative will also move towards engagement of employers and clients on developing workplace policies on mental health.
The plan is one of a number focuses on the crisis in transport, along with low pay, poor conditions, and high injury and fatalities rates, which will be discussed by the Transport Workers’ Union at the union’s National Council in Fremantle this week.
“There are many reasons why transport workers are more vulnerable than other professions to mental health problems: long hours away from family and the stresses that puts on relationships; low pay and poor working conditions; and in the case of truck drivers, high injury and fatality rates. This initiative will seek to provide support to those living with mental health problems but also to make recommendations on what needs to be done to tackle them,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
The TWU is concerned a Federal Government bill to make union-employer training funds illegal will see vital mental health programmes in transport shut down.
“It is appalling to see the Federal Government moving to shut down mental health programmes linked with training funds as part of its ideological opposition to a co-operative approach between companies and employees,” he added.
A survey* of over 4,000 truck drivers shows 918 stating they experienced mental health issues. A previous survey** shows truck drivers have a 7% higher chance of developing depression than other Australians.
Suicide rates are also high among truck drivers. A study by Deakin University showed 323 truck drivers committed suicide between 2001 and 2010. An analysis by the Victorian coroner’s court shows truck drivers had the highest number of suicides out of any other profession, with 53 drivers taking their own lives between 2008 to 2014.
“There are particular pressures on truck drivers which makes the job Australia’s deadliest and is the reason why one in three workers killed last year was a transport worker. Often the cause of this pressure is the role played by wealth retailers and manufacturers which continually lower their transport costs, financially squeezing for transport companies and drivers and forcing a race to the bottom in the industry. Because of this drivers are forced to speed, drive long hours and skip breaks just to support their families.,” Sheldon added.
“As a former truck driver I know first hand how mental health issues can affect people. This is a problem right across the transport industry and we want to tackle it by making it a priority,” said Leon Ruri, TWU organiser who has worked in the WA community on mental health.
The TWU National Council which is taking place in Fremantle from May 15-18. The Council will also see a road safety campaigners group launched, involving family members of people who have died in truck crashes, and sessions on the future of work and how the transport industry should respond to automation and driverless vehicles.
Keynote speeches during the week will include State Premier Mark McGowan, Labor Party infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese and ACTU Secretary Sally McManus.
For anyone experiencing mental health issues please call 1300 DRIVER or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
Media enquiries: Judith Crosbie 0432552895
* Transport Workers’ Union Safe Rates survey 2017
** Health Survey of the New South Wales Transport Industry, Australian Rotary Health report, 2008: http://services.thomson.com.au/cpdnews/docs/OccHealthNews/TWU_Report_FINAL.pdf