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Senator takes aim at sham contracting in transport industry

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 to avoid paying them their full entitlements.

But although there are stiff penalties in place for any company caught out – up to $66,600 per contravention – the practice is still rife, says Sterle.

Just last week the Shadow Assistant Minister for Road Safety 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.

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 of working on an ABN.

“He had to refinance his house.”

Big Rigs has contacted the office of the FWO for comment on the sham contracting issue.

But based on the list of prosecutions we sighted that was sent to Sterle, a lot more can be done.

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

  • If you’ve had a similar experience while working on an ABN and would like to share your story in the print edition of Big Rigs, we’d like to hear from you. You can reach us at editor@bigrigs.com.au.
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