Transport workers and industry groups are keeping the pressure on the Albanese government to follow through on a pre-election Labor pledge to form an independent road freight tribunal.
A week of lobbying will also include a series of truck convoys around the nation on Saturday, July 30, (details below) to further underline the urgent message that the industry needs the reinstatement of the road safety watchdog that was disbanded by the Coalition in 2016.
Peter Anderson, national secretary of the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation, told a media conference in Canberra timed to coincide with the first parliament sitting of the new Albanese government that the road freight industry was in crisis.
“We have a problem with the way our employees are treated by the platforms that are a third-party employer within our industry,” said Anderson, who is also the Victorian Transport Association CEO and a regular Big Rigs columnist.
“Those sort of platforms are the ones that are creating the issues we have today, as well as the fact we have no structured organisation that will create minimum standards within our industry.
“We want minimum standards that are enforceable and we want policies that are enforceable.
“There is no body capable of doing that in our industry at the moment, and this is what we want the politicians in parliament to actually legislate for, and that is a change in our industry to protect the workers, and to ensure our employers can operate healthy businesses that are sustainable and safe within the community.”
Speaking at the same media event, NSW Senator Tony Sheldon said Labor is committed to ensuring the gig economy is regulated.
He also added that it was vital that the issues raised in the campaigning this week were borne out in the Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra from September 1-2.
“To make sure we get the right sort of conditions for the Australian community, for road users in our community and for those working in our community,” said Sheldon.
He said the campaigning this week by industry heads will be focused on ensuring there is a framework in place for an independent tribunal to “turn around and deal with the issues that cut across the economic pressure that applies to truck drivers and trucking companies by big clients”.
“That is an important piece of legislation that we need to be forward-thinking about preparing as soon as practical.”
Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine said the regulation can’t wait.
This year alone he said over 100 people have died in truck crashes, including 26 truckies.
“This is urgent, people are dying,” said Kaine.
“We are calling on all parliamentarians from right across the political spectrum to just look at what’s happened.
“The gig economy is taking hold. It’s now infiltrated the major transport companies in our community and there’s a downward spiral that’s out of control.
“This is not a question of optional action. This is action that needs to be taken and it needs to be taken as a matter of urgency.”
Kaine’s comments come after a union warning that FedEx is proposing to strip newly engaged owner-drivers of rights like sick leave and superannuation, and pay gig-style piece rates at just $2.50.
“Appallingly, FedEx is trying to weasel its way out of the job security commitments it made to workers last year who were forced to take days of protected industrial action to secure their jobs, pay and conditions. FedEx is now pulling the rug out from under their feet,” he said.
“As if slashing pay and conditions is not enough, what FedEx is proposing strips workers of rights like collective bargaining, cost recovery, sick leave and superannuation and adds the deadly threat that if drivers don’t work fast enough, they could lose their job.”
The need for an over-arching industry tribunal was one of 10 recommendations to come out of Glenn Sterle’s long-running senate inquiry into the road transport industry.
The WA Senator, and former truckie, told Big Rigs at the recent National Road Freighters Association conference in Toowoomba that the tribunal’s formation remained Labor’s top priority for the industry now it was in government.
Update – July 29, 10.40am:
Convoy to Parliament House, Canberra
Convoy driving from Sydney and meeting at Eaglehawke.
9.45am (AEST): Convoy to depart for Australian Parliament House.
11am (AEST) Press conference, lower lawn outside Australian Parliament House.
Speakers: TWU national secretary Michael Kaine, Senator Tony Sheldon, Senator Glenn Sterle, NRFA president Rod Hannifey, transport workers.
8.30am (AEST): Press conference, outside Toll Tasmania, 90 Webb Dock Drive, Port Melbourne.
8.45am (AEST): Convoy to depart, cross the Westgate Bridge, then return to Toll Tasmania.
Convoy – starts and finishes at TWU House, 11 Alexandra Place, Murarrie.
12pm (AEST): Convoy departs TWU House for State Parliament House.
1pm (AEST): Press conference at TWU House.
Convoy – starting and finishing at Bonython Park.
9am (ACST): Convoy departs from Bonython Park (Thebarton Carpark).
10am (ACST): Press conference, Bonython Park.
Convoy – starting and finishing at 143 Chisholm Crescent, Kewdale WA.
8.45am (AWST): Press conference.
9am (AWST): Departure from Kewdale for convoy through Perth.