A slew of transport workers across major companies like Toll, StarTrack, FedEx, Linfox and Bevchain have told their employers to come back to the table for negotiations or they will walk off the job.
Key demands from the workers are centred around ongoing concerns about job security and potential job outsourcing, particularly as lockdowns wind up, according to the Transport Workers Union (TWU).
Though some of the companies involved have agreed to negotiations with the rank-and-file, FedEx is yet to respond to employees’ requests to meet.
The discussions and planned industrial action follow the release of a landmark survey of 1,110 employees by the TWU, which revealed explosive allegations about work conditions by many of those surveyed, although the related employers were not specified.
According to the survey, 75 per cent of truck drivers said they had completed runs with no clear profit, and 42 per cent did not raise safety concerns out of fear it may prevent payment. Almost half say that they had witnessed a serious crash, with one driver reporting that he saw his friend die in a burning truck.
While it is generally accepted that truck drivers face unique dangers in their industry, the realities of insecure jobs mean workers have had to accept much riskier work, says TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.
“This survey reveals the harrowing truth that hundreds of people die needlessly each year in preventable truck crashes,” says Kaine.
“Standards desperately need to be raised but instead are being dragged down by unchecked corporate greed, squeezing every last drop out of supply chains and exploitative business models like AmazonFlex and Uber flooding the market.
“Workers know what happens when good, secure jobs are outsourced to the lowest bidder: safety standards plummet while the pressure on drivers skyrockets. While the Federal Government fails to lift a finger, workers across major transport operators are standing up.”
If these issues are not resolved within the next week of discussion, workers will be planning to strike in a day of action involving several thousand workers across the industry.
“Those bravely taking strike action are all that stand between good jobs with safe conditions and yards flooded with insecure work as companies slash costs to remain competitive,” says Kaine.
“The Federal Government needs to urgently implement Senate recommendations to establish an independent body to set minimum binding standards in trucking and end the pressure killing truck drivers.”
The work itself had become increasingly financially unviable for many workers, with many responding that they could no longer afford regular servicing of vehicles, and two-thirds saying that they had to actively consider selling. Over 52 per cent of those surveyed had experienced wage theft.
In addition, 25 per cent of workers said they were facing pressure from employers to work beyond legal hours and skip breaks.
More worryingly, 10 per cent of drivers had said they had been pressured to drive vehicles that had been tampered with to go faster, that 12.5 per cent had been offered illicit drugs from their employer in order to continue working difficult hours, and that 25 per cent had been encouraged by employers to speed and disregard basic road safety laws.
The results of the survey coincide with similar campaigns against the country, with Maritime workers in the ports of Fremantle and Kwinana currently engaged in a dispute for better working conditions with Stevedoring company Qube Ports.
It also comes after strikes involving workers from FedEx and Australia Post’s StarTrak, which saw thousands walk off the job in response to employees not guaranteeing job security.
Earlier this year the TWU took deliveries giant Toll to court, alleging the company paid owner-drivers late on more than 5,000 occasions during the last Christmas period.
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