Opinion

Missing: duty of care and respect for transport workers

Transport workers have become directly responsible for shareholder and management happiness due to the ‘Christmas-level’ workload in many yards. They have kept parcels coming to people’s doors, they’ve kept retail shelves stocked. They have delivered essential goods and supplies across the country under unprecedented demand and pressure from those at the top of the supply chains. 

Now those same drivers face a dilemma brought about by companies like FedEx and StarTrack who want to take this industry backwards. The industry precedent they want to set, is to take back what you get, reducing your income for the job you do. 

The TWU are asking companies to stop outsourcing your job security. StarTrack has for example 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. FedEx are in a similar position, avoiding a commitment to transport workers and their families who face a loss of income because outsourcing is the model for their business. 

At StarTrack, a leaked email from a labour hire agency shows that StarTrack is directing its outside hire agencies to pay its workers under cheap Award conditions, rather than ensure they are paid the same conditions and wages as StarTrack workers. The targeting of Kim White who has been targeted by the management team is not forgotten. 

It is well known that insecure forms of work are on the increase. All workers want to hold on to a job, to ensure they can be able to pay the bills. The situation at companies like StarTrack and FedEx makes me want to ask, “why fix what ain’t broken?” The profits are rolling in, you have a workforce that has pushed their hardest for you and their reward is the disrespectful treatment that sees managers looking to replace these workers. Sounds like Alan Joyce at Qantas. 

Members are taking a stand. Members know that the offers on negotiating tables are missing the essential ingredient, a secure working future for working families. Workers will stand together right across Australia to demand better. In a major step across FedEx and StarTrack workforces, members have resoundingly voted to take action and join the fight to have their voices heard. 

Company arrogance is not just hurting employee drivers. The duty of care for owner drivers and their bottom line is also missing. Shareholders at Transurban must be ecstatic that they have really locked up the toll road system here in Australia, yet for all the joy that gives to shareholders, the enormous costs of road tolls on owner drivers and companies is beginning to take its toll. 

October 1 is the date where toll road costs went up again, like they do every quarter and they will continue to do so for years to come because of the cosy deal that Transurban has made with the NSW government. Don’t forget there is no way out of the tunnel for drivers who are forced to use NorthConnex. 

The TWU is asking the NSW government and Transurban to deal with the fear and uncertainty they have caused to small business transport operators in NSW and Queensland as the debt increases and the toll road costs continue to rise. 

About the author:

Richard Olsen is the TWU NSW/Qld state secretary.

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