Another 6,000 transport workers will push for industrial action after talks broke down at StarTrack and FedEx over proposed agreements which undermine job security, despite bumper profits at wealthy retailers like Amazon whose parcels they transport.
Transport workers will today file applications with the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote at each company to go on strike. If the ballots are successful, workers could begin industrial action in the coming months in a move that would cause major disruption to parcel deliveries.
Last month, the Fair Work Commission accepted a protected action ballot for 7,000 Toll workers, with voting to commence on Tuesday 10th August over plans to take industrial action.
A crucial sticking point which caused negotiations to collapse across all three major transport companies has been the lower pay of outside hire workers who are doing the same work as direct employees, which threatens employees’ jobs into the future and causes them to lose out on overtime hours.
Talks failed to reach agreement at FedEx yesterday over the company’s refusal of job security provisions and set rates for all work carried out to be paid at the same rate. Workers are also angry over the company’s attempt to remove fair dispute procedures from disciplinary matters which further threatens jobs.
StarTrack negotiations also broke down last week after the company denied backpay for the extreme-demand 2020 year and refused to prioritise employees over lower paid outside hire. Workers have already reported a hit to their income due to overtime hours going to outside hire instead of employees.
Transport is Australia’s deadliest industry due to high pressure and fatigue caused by the financial squeeze from wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top of supply chains. Since the Federal Government abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal which was tasked with investigating dangerous cost cutting in supply chains, 200 truck drivers and nearly 1,000 people overall have been killed in truck crashes.
TWU Assistant National Secretary, Nick McIntosh said if pay and conditions are slashed at major transport operators, the death toll from truck crashes will increase exponentially.
“Workers have sacrificed their time, energy and the safety of their families battling covid restrictions to get high volumes of parcels to our front doors. Now they’re being asked to sacrifice the safety of their future pay and conditions despite their hard work achieving record profits for wealthy retailers like Amazon, Apple and Bunnings.
“These workers are bravely standing up for road safety across our communities. They know that the denial of job security provisions allows companies to cut costs by paying other workers less to do the same job. When pay and conditions are slashed in transport, stressed out, fatigued truck drivers are pressured to work quickly over longer hours to make ends meet. This is a growing threat right across the industry. It’s why we’ve seen a truck driver killed every 10 days since the Federal Government pulled down a tribunal tasked with addressing deadly corporate greed. If we allow this attack on safe rates and conditions to continue, the slaughter on our roads will only get worse,” McIntosh said.
A TWU survey yesterday revealed that two thirds of truck drivers are unvaccinated, with 90% not provided paid leave provisions to get their jabs. Over half of survey respondents said they’d had difficulty getting rest, a hot meal and a shower at truck stops during covid. Around one third reported being told to self-isolate in their truck, while almost half said they’ve had to spend hours queueing for covid tests.
In June, FedEx reported record full-year results with revenues jumping to US$84 billion and net income over US$5 billion. FedEx runs a golf tournament with a $60 million prize.
StarTrack is Australia Post’s most profitable division as a result of workers’ efforts last year, with Australia Post reporting a 15.5% increase in revenue and profits of $166m in the six months to December 2020.
Retailers globally have boomed since the pandemic hit with Amazon announcing profits up 224% to $US8 billion in just the last quarter. Apple said its profits have more than doubled to US$23.6 billion while Aldi’s annual revenue in 2019 was $US109 billion.
The TWU has filed claims on 50 retailers operating in Australia, demanding they lift standards to ensure fairness and safety in transport.