“Almost 40% of all workplace deaths this year involve transport workers. In the past year, deaths from articulated trucks are up 7.2% and deaths from heavy rigid vehicles are up 4.1%. Malcolm Turnbull and Michaelia Cash intervened in our industry last year, tore down an independent body investigating risks to safety and have made matters much worse. Families have been left devastated because of these horrific crashes yet the Government ignores the problem,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
Sheldon said the Federal Government has approved labour agreements allowing transport operators to bring in overseas transport workers to pay them less. This exploitation is causing a race to the bottom in transport which is leading a spike to deaths from truck crashes. In this race to the bottom truck drivers are paid low rates and pressured to drive long hours.
“Transport companies like Northline are gaming the system and the Federal Government is facilitating it. Northline have already brought in overseas forklift drivers and are trying to bring in more. There is no scrutiny of the pay and conditions of these drivers despite evidence that Northline has a history of
underpaying and pushing drivers to take risks,” Sheldon said.
The Senate Inquiry by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee is examining exploitation in transport after a truck got struck in the M5 tunnel in Sydney last year. The two truck drivers on student visas were unable to unhitch the truck or reverse it out of the tunnel.
“This Government is opposed to a system of safe rates which ensures wealthy retailers and manufacturers are held to account over exploitation in their supply chains. They are opposed to scrutinising transport clients and transport operators who game the system in order to exploit transport workers. They are opposed to holding clients to account for low cost contracts that squeeze transport companies and in turn see drivers’ wages and conditions reduced,” Sheldon told the inquiry.
Over the 10 years to 2014, 2,500 people died in truck crashes.