National Council 2023: A crucial moment for progress

In a time of ongoing challenges and opportunities for transport workers, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) National Council 2023 in Sydney has convened to discuss and address the needs and aspirations of transport workers across the nation.

Throughout the event, various discussions, panels, and actions shed light on the necessity for industry-wide reform. One of the focal points was the global impact of the Safe Rates campaign, emphasizing its significance in advocating for fair and safe working conditions.

As the newly elected TWU national president, I had the privilege of witnessing the event’s commencement, where Chris Minns, the recently elected Premier of New South Wales, delivered an opening address.

Minns reflected on the commitments of the Labor Party towards transport workers and acknowledged the progressive efforts of the NSW Government since the first parliamentary sitting in May this year. Notably, he made an historic commitment to transport workers and to the TWU, pledging to modernize laws and enhance standards for gig workers in NSW, a promising step forward in safeguarding the rights and welfare of these workers.

Soon after, we organised a solemn vigil in Sydney’s bustling CBD to honour the memory of the 301 truck drivers who tragically lost their lives on our roads since the abolishment of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) by the Turnbull government in 2016.

At this gathering, Tom Walters, a TWU member who was formerly employed at Scott’s prior to the company’s sudden collapse earlier this year, shared his reflections on the devastating impact that these fatalities have had on families, friends, and communities. The vigil served as a reminder of the urgency to prioritize safety and well-being within the transport industry.

On the next impactful day, we staged the sixth strike in the City of Sydney, focusing our efforts on Cleanaway in response to their persistent attacks on pay and conditions. Witnessing the indifference of figures like Clover Moore, the Lord Mayor of Sydney City, towards intervening in the mistreatment of these essential workers, we launched the TWU’s national campaign against Cleanaway.

This bold move aimed to hold the company accountable and raise public awareness regarding the urgent need for fair treatment and improved working conditions.

Collectively, these actions and initiatives, though exciting, underscore the critical requirement for comprehensive reform within the transport sector. We have shed a light on the pervasive challenges faced by transport workers, including issues of safety, remuneration, and working conditions. By amplifying the voices of those affected and bringing attention to these pressing concerns, we aim to galvanise support and instigate meaningful change.

Through advocating for fair rates, safer working environments, and improved standards, we strive to foster an industry that not only values the essential contributions of transport workers but also safe

guards their rights and well-being. Reforming legislation and regulations will be crucial in achieving these goals, as it will provide a solid foundation for a fairer and more sustainable transport industry.

As we reflect on the discussions, actions, and commitments made at the TWU National Council 2023, we are reminded of the imperative to continue pushing for change. Our collective efforts must extend beyond this event and translate into ongoing advocacy and action at all levels, including engaging policymakers, raising public awareness, and mobilizing support from various stakeholders.

The TWU National Council 2023 served as a catalyst for meaningful conversations and actions regarding the needs and aspirations of transport workers across Australia.

Through highlighting the impact of campaigns such as safe rates, addressing the plight of gig workers, honouring the lives lost on our roads, and standing up against mistreatment, we have underscored the urgent need for reform in the transport sector.

  • Richard Olsen is TWU NSW/QLD state secretary

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