Senator takes aim at sham contracting in trucking

WA Senator Glenn Sterle says the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is asleep at the wheel when it comes to policing sham contracting in trucking.

The former truckie has been a long-time campaigner against the rampant practice of employing drivers on ABNs, rather than as employees, to avoid paying them their full entitlements.

But although there are stiff penalties in place for any company caught out, the practice is still rife, says Sterle.

Earlier this month he says he was made aware of a dodgy operator in the Perth metro area advertising for an experienced casual HC driver on an ABN.

The company even went as far as saying the driver had to be over 25 years of age – for insurance purposes – and be registered for GST.

WA Senator Glenn Sterle

Successful applicants would be promised 40-plus hours per week, on a starting rate of $29 per hour.

When Sterle challenged the company, it withdrew its advertisement and took its website down.

“This sort of behaviour must not continue if we want to see a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry in Australia going forward,” said Sterle.

“Sham contracting, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website, is illegal.

“However it is rife in the transport industry and nothing is being done about it. Well, I’ve had enough of truckies getting ripped off by operators doing the wrong thing while undercutting those operators who are doing the right thing, and I will continue to dob them in when brought to my attention.”

Sterle’s call for action from the FWO incited an outpouring of support on his Facebook page.

“Thank you Glenn,” writes Robert Schmidt.

“At last we can get some high level and official help with this problem that has been the scourge of this industry for too many years.

“Destroying not only the reputation and safe working practices of the industry, but destroying lives as well.

Adds Ross Higgins: “Goes on all over Victoria too and yes the big companies are aware of it…. The transport manager usually gets a big fat cut of what he saves… I know of subbies using people on holiday visas and paying them ten bucks an hour cash…. The trucking game is finished, just not worth it anymore….”

Sterle said he was also made aware of one hapless truckie who got slugged with a $22,000 tax bill as a result.

“He had to refinance his house.”

Since July 1, 2009, there has only been 18 successful litigations against transport companies, with a further four cases ongoing.

A spokesperson for the FWO told Big Rigs that sham contracting remains one of the FWO’s strategic priorities for 2020-21.

“In the 2019-20 financial year the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Sham Contracting Unit was activated and the agency completed 309 disputes relating to sham contracting and misclassification, recovering $363,976 for 278 employees — a 200 per cent increase in disputes completed and 83 per cent increase in monies recovered compared to the previous financial year.”

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