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Strike threat for StarTrack and FedEx after pay talks break down

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Another 6000 transport workers will push for industrial action after talks broke down at StarTrack and FedEx over proposed agreements which undermine job security, warns the Transport Workers’ Union.

Transport workers will today file applications with the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote at each company to go on strike. If the ballots are successful, workers could begin industrial action in the coming months in a move that would cause major disruption to parcel deliveries.

Last month, the Fair Work Commission accepted a protected action ballot for 7000 Toll workers, with voting to commence on Tuesday, August 10 over plans to take industrial action.

A crucial sticking point which caused negotiations to collapse across all three major transport companies has been the lower pay of outside hire workers who are doing the same work as direct employees, which threatens employees’ jobs into the future and causes them to lose out on overtime hours, said the union.

The union said talks failed to reach agreement at FedEx yesterday over the company’s refusal of job security provisions and set rates for all work carried out to be paid at the same rate.

“Workers are also angry over the company’s attempt to remove fair dispute procedures from disciplinary matters which further threatens jobs,” said the union in a media statement.

The TWU added that the StarTrack negotiations also broke down last week after the company denied backpay for the extreme-demand 2020 year and refused to prioritise employees over lower paid outside hire.

“Workers have already reported a hit to their income due to overtime hours going to outside hire instead of employees.”

TWU assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh said workers agreed to forgo pay rises last year due to the pandemic and wanted the first wage increase sought in the new agreement – ­either 3 or 4 per cent – backdated to 2020.

The union is also seeking an increase in superannuation. Workers at StarTrack, which has offered an annual 3 per cent pay rise for three years, pays 12 per cent superannuation. FedEx pays 11 per cent.

McIntosh said if pay and conditions are slashed at major transport operators, the death toll from truck crashes will increase exponentially.

“Workers have sacrificed their time, energy and the safety of their families battling covid restrictions to get high volumes of parcels to our front doors. Now they’re being asked to sacrifice the safety of their future pay and conditions despite their hard work achieving record profits for wealthy retailers like Amazon, Apple and Bunnings,” McIntosh said.

“These workers are bravely standing up for road safety across our communities. They know that the denial of job security provisions allows companies to cut costs by paying other workers less to do the same job.

“When pay and conditions are slashed in transport, stressed out, fatigued truck drivers are pressured to work quickly over longer hours to make ends meet. This is a growing threat right across the industry. It’s why we’ve seen a truck driver killed every 10 days since the federal government pulled down a tribunal tasked with addressing deadly corporate greed.”

In June, FedEx reported record full-year results with revenues jumping to US$84 billion and net income over US$5 billion.

StarTrack is Australia Post’s most profitable division as a result of workers’ efforts last year, with Australia Post reporting a 15.5 per cent increase in revenue and profits of $166m in the six months to December 2020.

StarTrack and FedEx have been approached for comment.

UPDATE [3pm]

A StarTrack spokesperson tells Big Rigs that the company has put “its best and final pay offer” to the TWU, which includes a guaranteed pay rise of nine per cent over three years, delivered as three per cent compounding each year.

“This is the best pay offer among our competitors.

“With discussions concluded, Startrack is encouraging employees to share their support for this offer with the TWU for endorsement so that we can put the agreement to a vote and deliver a well-deserved pay rise and the new EBA benefits as soon as possible.

“StarTrack remains committed to delivering for all our customers and while contingency plans are in place to minimise the impact of any industrial action, deliveries for customers may be impacted, especially for those in vulnerable regional communities requiring essential supplies such as medicines, protective equipment and vaccines.”

FedEx later told Big Rigs in a statement that it is currently in discussions with employees and the TWU to finalise a new enterprise agreement.

“At FedEx we believe our team members are our biggest asset. We are committed to ensure a fair workplace with competitive wages and benefits, and a good work environment for our team members.

“We are surprised and disappointed that the TWU has threatened industrial action at this stage during ongoing productive discussions.”

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