Opinion

Safety must be the priority

Profit before safety, profit before people is not the road for a company to take when it comes to ensuring respect for drivers in 2021. We are in the grip of a pandemic and you are in the thick of it, a worker doing a critical job ensuring the wheels keep turning.

It is abundantly clear that the politics of panic exists; the TWU is fighting for respect for transport workers over the shambles they face, battling to do their jobs and comply with the testing orders, permits and more.

You have encountered closed truck stops, bans on eating meals at a table, polystyrene plates and plastic forks, closed shower facilities, constant virus testing, ever-changing border permits and queues for border entry. Every day we are hearing of truck drivers forced to wait for testing on logbook hours, required to self-test in their trucks and facing major delays to get results or not having test kits available where they work.

Companies are adding to the confusion, setting their own rules on how they handle Covid in their yards and it appears putting drivers right across the industry at risk. We remain concerned at some delays in response from NSW Health and remain outraged by the actions of companies like Hanson who in our view put profit before safety when it came to informing workers that Covid was on site.

There are rules in place, those provided by the Health Authorities, let’s avoid the confusion for transport workers and follow those rules, not those invented in supply chains that suit the politics of panic in company leadership.

Some companies are playing ball, we congratulate those that have responded to TWU requests that they provide workers with pandemic leave or are ensuring that they have access to testing and more.

A significant number of transport companies are making decent profit from the pandemic, and it alarms the TWU that they now are in the race of their lives to win contracts at the lowest possible cost. This is starkly visible in negotiations underway between transport companies and drivers over pay and conditions.

The drivers who are moving these businesses forward day and night throughout the pandemic to get freight to the customer are now being asked to accept a direct attack on their job security and conditions.

Drivers are now presented with a plan for a “B rate” for employee drivers, which would strip rights, rates, and conditions back to the bone. Standards on superannuation would be back to minimums with attempts to trash even minimum award standards when it comes to paying overtime. The axe is swinging over the heads of contract carriers too, with rates and conditions in jeopardy.

Drivers have made it clear that they won’t stand for what are new lows in standards for jobs in transport. At Toll drivers are in the midst of pushing for strike action. At other trucking companies, drivers are also facing conditions under threat.

No driver takes this action lightly. They know that taking action would result in a threat to vital supplies across the country. However, they also know that the risk of not taking action is even greater.

You can join the fight wherever you are; find out more at the website www.twu.com.au/join.

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