The Transport Workers’ Union has called on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to withdraw a letter threatening jail to a driver who spoke out about rates in an opinion column.
The union has also called on the ACCC to begin an urgent inquiry into distorted competition in the road transport sector, whereby powerful retailers, manufacturers and oil companies set low cost prices for drivers and transport operators.
An April opinion column in Owner Driver magazine by Frank Black, the owner driver representative on the Australian Trucking Association’s general council, prompted the ACCC to write to Black stating it had concerns over references to drivers maintaining their rates during the pandemic crisis. The letter adds: “Contravention of the cartel provisions of the CCA [Competition and Consumer Act 2010] is a criminal offence and carries serious criminal and civil penalties, including up to 10 years in jail for individuals, and heavy pecuniary penalties for corporations.”
The TWU has written to the ACCC demanding it withdraws the letter and instead sets up an inquiry into the financial squeeze on drivers.
“This is an outrageous attack on free speech and an attempted cover up of the fact that drivers are under pressure from wealthy, powerful clients. Frank in his column pointed out that drivers are being forced into dangerously lowering their prices and instead of looking into the clients creating this problem, the ACCC is going after drivers. We demand a full apology and an inquiry into the real problem: the financial squeeze by major retailers, manufacturers and oil companies,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“Frank like all hard-working truck drivers has literally pulled Australia through this pandemic crisis. He wrote in his column about having to take on extra work in case work dried up altogether and having to miss his grandson’s first birthday as a result. The response of the ACCC in going after a frontline essential worker in this way is heartless,” Kaine added.