The applications, to be made in the coming weeks, centre on the ongoing determination of drivers to have a fair and safe rate in the industry, and include:
- a demand for auditing of transport operators to hold clients to account over payment of the correct rates and allowances for employee drivers and to ensure illegal, exploited and untrained drivers are not employed in the supply chain
- a demand that transport contracts be scrutinised to ensure they allow for all costs to be covered in carrying out deliveries, including maintenance of trucks, fuel, drivers’ wages, third party insurance, workers’ compensation and other minimum legal requirements.
On Friday the TWU lodged an application at the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to force major retailers to pay transport operators within 30 days of work completed. The union has been lobbying transport associations to lodge the application for over 18 months to deal with the delay in payment. Whilst many transport companies support the application, organisations like the Australian Industry Group represent powerful clients and oppose protections for their own trucking company membership.
The move comes ahead of a new rates system due to come into effect on April 4th, which will see owner drivers paid minimum safe rates to cover all their work, including time spent queuing and unloading.
“Our industry desperately needs to be made safer and more sustainable. To do that we must challenge the dominance of major retailers over transport operators and drivers. We have made an application to address the problem of transport operators being forced to struggle because billion-dollar companies are withholding payment. It is common for payment to be withheld for 120 days but it can be as outrageously as long as 220 days,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
Truck drivers and the TWU will visit Canberra on Wednesday to call for a focus on road deaths from truck crashes. “Since the beginning of March 16 people have died tragically in truck crashes. This has got to stop. Our fight is about transport operators big and small fighting for a sustainable future and safer working conditions. It is about a community fighting for safer roads with less families left devastated. This is about standing together and saying: short-term profits and executive pay packets are not going to win over our right to safety and fair work,” Sheldon said.
“Transport operators have shown themselves to be too weak to stand up to big retailers so we’re doing it for them by demanding they be paid their work within 30 days and that transport contracts allow them to recover costs. Now we are asking them to join us in holding these big retailers accountable,” he added.
The TWU today opposed applications before the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to abolish the new rates system by groups including Ai Group, NatRoad and the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association. In over two years of negotiations and consultation on the new rates none of the groups put forward any constructive ideas on how to make the transport industry safe or sustainable.
Owner driver Frank Black said the new rates were vital to addressing the pressure on drivers which causes drivers to be 15 times more likely to die than any other profession in Australia. “Drivers are tired of working long hours and being put under constant pressure for little return. We have fought long and hard for these rates. It is time for them to be paid,” he said.
Lystra Tagliaferri, whose husband David died when a fatigued driver veered off the road in 2011 and crashed into him, said it was vital that pressure on drivers is lifted. “This industry has to change or more families like mine will be left bereft. The change has to start by ensuring that the big retailers stop giving out low cost contracts that have drivers racing around the country tired and stressed. This Order is the first step towards that change,” she said.
Last October employers, governments and employee groups at the United Nations labour body, the International Labor Organization, backed a plan based on the Australian Safe Rates model to tackle unfair and unsafe remuneration as the root causes of the high global death toll in trucking.