The Union has called for ship owners to bear the costs, as clients at the top of the supply chain.
The fees at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane ports will heap further financial stress on transport where margins are already tight. The price hike in Melbourne will go from $3.45 to $32.50 per container; in Sydney a new charge of $21.16 will apply for the first time; while in Brisbane fees will go up 30%.
Drivers will come under even more pressure to work long hours, speed and skip mandatory rest breaks while vital maintenance on vehicles will get delayed.
“We are already seeing an increase in deaths and injuries at the moment: last year one out of every three workers killed was a transport worker while deaths from rigid and articulated trucks went up. We do not need more pressure on transport, we need accountability among the clients which are ultimately responsible for safety in the supply chain,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
The TWU also criticised the imbalance in payment terms for trucking companies: DP World insists on payment within seven days while trucking business can wait up to 120 days for payment. “The Federal Government abolished payment terms for truck drivers when it tore down the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal last year. Its silence is deafening on this burden which is now being placed on drivers at the ports,” said Sheldon.
The TWU fears the price hike will put thousands of owner drivers out of business. “These small trucking businesses are already subsisting on tight margins and they have among the highest rates of bankruptcies for any businesses. This fee should not be passed on to those at the bottom of the supply chain,” Sheldon added.
The TWU supports industry calls for the ACCC to investigate the fees. “This will clearly skew competition and hurt transport. This could potentially have a knock-on effect in other parts of our economy.”
“The TWU will support any owner drivers taking direct action against the ports over the coming weeks in a similar way to the port blockades of the 1980s and 1990s. We will support drivers standing up to this level of extortion,” Sheldon added.