The Fair Work Commission has approved a job security strike allowing 2000 StarTrack workers to walk off the job for 24 hours from midnight tonight, rejecting the company’s attempt to thwart the strike by exploiting the covid crisis.
At the start of the hearing, StarTrack dropped its application to terminate the strike, but continued unsuccessfully to delay it.
The Fair Work Commission knocked back StarTrack’s application after the company failed to demonstrate strike action would jeopardise lives or health. The company did not, as requested by both the TWU and Commissioner Cambridge, provide any detail on where or when vaccines or medical supplies would be impacted.
Commissioner Cambridge acknowledged “there is a fundamental understanding in the industry going back decades” that the TWU has always ensured medical supplies – such as organs for critical surgery – continue unimpeded throughout any industrial action.
StarTrack eventually agreed to crisis talks today, but refused to abandon its attack on jobs. The TWU questioned why StarTrack was concentrating on strike delay tactics rather than reaching an agreement with workers and was told action “is damaging to our business and hurts our customers”, casting doubt over the legitimacy of its vaccine delivery concerns.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said StarTrack has repeatedly, underhandedly tried to fight workers rather than reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
“We’re pleased the Fair Work Commission has approved this action, recognising that StarTrack’s attempt to block workers exercising their rights was a deplorable tactic which lacked authenticity. Had StarTrack been genuinely concerned about any impact to vaccines or medical supplies, it would have flagged this weeks ago when it opposed a protected action ballot and worked cooperatively with the union to ensure provisions could be made, as undertaken by the TWU.
“Disguised under the cloak of covid, StarTrack has falsely smeared union members as irresponsible when it is threatening the jobs of its loyal workforce and exploiting the pandemic. Management would be better off focusing on the genuine job security guarantees requested by its workforce than spending time and energy on a panic-stricken, opportunistic and spurious claim designed to mislead workers and deceive the public,” he said.
The StarTrack work-stoppage is the result of months of failed negotiations in which the company has refused worker’s calls for job security guarantees, following a surge in outsourcing to rates as high as 70% in some yards.
Workers want the same pay and conditions for labour hire as employees, caps on the use of outside hire, and commitments to allocate work to employees before contracting out.
Kaine added: “We know the national community would be ashamed that this mistreatment of workers is going on at a government-owned company enjoying record revenues off the backs of its workforce.
“Transport workers right across the industry are suffering similar attacks on their livelihoods because of government inaction which has allowed transport to become a boom and bust industry. Demand is sky-high, but standards are at rock bottom thanks to unregulated exploitation through the likes of Uber and AmazonFlex which are smashing good, safe standards and jobs.”
Over the last week, thousands more workers at FedEx, Linfox and Bevchain have voted with at least 97% endorsement of strike action at each company. Workers are urging the companies to provide job security guarantees in order to prevent action.
- The TWU has launched legal action over the unfair sacking of a labour hire worker undergoing breast cancer treatment after she questioned a pay cut and was told StarTrack had instructed a return to Award conditions.
- Last week, StarTrack called the police on a union official with a lawful right of entry permit, then isolated him in a room for five hours after being forced by the regulator to grant access to the site.
- Following member reports that managers had threatened their overtime if they take part in strikes, the TWU yesterday wrote to StarTrack management demanding they provide workers’ certainty that this would not occur, in order to avoid an adverse action claim.
- Australia Post recently reported record revenues to $8.27 billion and a profit before tax of $100.7 million. StarTrack is the group’s most profitable arm with volumes up 12.1% in the last year.