The Transport Workers’ Union has criticised stevedores for heaping financial pressure on transport companies and putting safety at risk, as the ACCC showed stevedore revenues generated by access fees jumped by 63% to $167 million in 2018/19.
Despite a drop in growth rates because of the decline in the economy stevedores still grew their overall revenues by 1.3% to $1.371 billion, the increase mainly generated by the infrastructure charge.
“This infrastructure charge is a pure and simple money grab and while it grows the coffers of the stevedores it is bringing trucking companies at the ports to their knees, with all the safety implications that has. Trucking companies are telling us their margins are just too tight and that this charge is putting an unnecessary burden on their businesses,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“It is not possible to heap financial pressure on the transport industry without resulting in serious consequences for the viability of operators and safety on the roads. The effect of this is that businesses are stretched to the limit where they must delay vital maintenance on their trucks, where drivers are pushed to work long hours, speed and skip their rest breaks just to get the job done. When this happens safety is compromised and people get injured and die,” he added.
“We have called on the Federal Government time and again to address this issue but we are constantly met with silence. Now they can see how the charge is helping to balloon the revenues of stevedores while transport companies are left to go bust and run on empty,” Kaine said.
TWU NSW Branch Secretary Richard Olsen said stevedores had been exposed over the infrastructure charge after it emerged that NSW port had in fact previously dropped rent charges.“ Stevedores in the past said they had to increase infrastructure charges because of increased rents in NSW. That turned out to not be true and yet stevedores continue to increase their charges. We want transport operators able to run good businesses, keep safety as the number one priority and pay their drivers a fair rate. This charge instead gouges them and is putting businesses at risk,” he said.
The road safety watchdog torn down by the Federal Government in April 2016 had begun an investigation into risks to safety in transport at the ports.
In the last 12 months, 332 businesses in the transport, postal and warehousing sector have become insolvent, according to data from ASIC. Since January 175 people have died in truck crashes, including 46 truck drivers.