Experienced Sydney truckie Keven Mitchell is the first to admit that he should have checked his superannuation balance sooner than he did.
But he was working so hard carting containers out of Port Botany – often starting at 4am and not finishing until as late as 10pm – it just didn’t feel like a priority, or necessity at the time.
“That’s how they catch you; they keep you busy,” said Mitchell, 46.
“On my pay slip it was telling me that I’m getting my super paid, so you think, ‘Oh not a problem’, but in reality, they’re not actually paying it.
“I’ve got no problem sticking my hand up and going ‘Hey, I forgot, but it’s also their responsibility to look after us. We’re doing their work; we’re doing the hard yards.
“But they’re keeping that money and only when they get in trouble are they paying it back. It’s an absolute rort.”
It wasn’t until Mitchell parted ways with his former employer that he discovered the ruse that had left him over $5000 short of his entitlements. He said other drivers at the same company were left in a similar boat.
He’s since successfully applied to the ATO for a garnishee order to redress the imbalance, but at deadline for this issue all the company has legally paid him back so far is a measly $318.
Mitchell is now going back through his work history to check he hasn’t been fleeced elsewhere.
After a hiatus away from the industry, Mitchell is today back behind the wheel working for an operator he said does all the right things by their drivers.
But he’s still fearful for other truckies who are being short-changed on their super and hopes that by sharing his story it might give them the courage to stand up for their rights.
“We’re just too scared to speak out because of the threat of losing our job,” said Mitchell.
“I’ve had plenty of jobs in which I’ve been physically threatened if I don’t get in the truck and do the job, and I’m not the only one.
“We’ve all got kids and families to support, and it can feel like you have a gun to your head.”
After walking away from the industry for a couple of years, Mitchell said he now understands why disillusioned older drivers leave and never come back.
“They just get thoroughly used and burnt,” he said.
“This is why I worry about the younger generation in the industry because they don’t know the pitfalls. Lots of guys are banging on about the industry needing an apprenticeship and they’re right.
“They should have to go and learn from a guy who’s been at it for 30 years.”
Mitchell said he’s looking forward to discussing the super issue – and many others impacting drivers – when he makes a formal submission to the Sydney round of Senator Glenn Sterle’s road transport inquiry early in 2021.
“We need some sort of inquiry, a down to the bone investigation looking at company practices and attitudes, the way they push their drivers until they blow their eyelids out.
“They’ll lock us up if we’re a habitual offender on the road, but a habitual abuser of staff who is not paying us properly and withholding super gets a slap on the wrist, and why is that fair?
“We transport everything in – everything you own is because of a truckie – yet we are the most mistreated, mistrusted and cheated.
“I don’t understand why because at the end of the day, we are the heartbeat of this nation.”
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said all transport workers should check their payslip to make sure they are getting a minimum of 9.5 per cent super.
“But it’s also worth checking your superannuation balance every few months, especially the contributions section,” added Kaine.
“If there has been no contribution for three months, it’s time to get in touch with the union and get active to secure your retirement savings.”
“Superannuation is the key to a comfortable and secure retirement. The TWU fought long and hard to establish superannuation in the early 1980s and it’s something we take extremely seriously.”
The Fair Work Commission said that superannuation has to be paid at least every three months into the employee’s nominated account.
If you suspect you are being short-changed, search online for the ATO’s employee super guarantee calculator tool.
If it shows your super has not been correctly paid to your fund, the ATO advises taking the summary to your boss to discuss the issue. If it can’t be resolved directly, you can also lodge an enquiry through the same platform and the ATO will take over on your behalf.
In certain circumstances, you can also keep your identity confidential. For more information visit ato.gov.au/tipoff, or call 1800 060 062.