Court ruling in truckie underpayment case shows need for industry reform: TWU

Transport Workers' Union

A Federal Court ruling on a $6000 rip off of a long-distance truck driver is the tip of the iceberg and shows need for urgent industry reform, say the TWU.

The Court fined Sapphire Freighters Pty Ltd $21,500 for failing to comply with an earlier Compliance Notice and ordered the payment of outstanding entitlements to the driver who drove between Melbourne and Brisbane.

Trucking is Australia’s deadliest industry, with underpayments, fatigue, speeding, and deaths and injuries from truck crashes linked to the low-cost contracts demanded by wealthy supermarkets and manufacturers at the top of the supply chain.

Vic/Tas TWU Secretary John Berger said drivers are being ripped off their wages and payments every day because of the financial squeeze on transport.

“This court case is the tip of the iceberg. We know on any given day drivers are ripped off their wages, allowances and super to cut costs because of low-cost contracts from wealthy supermarkets, manufacturers and oil companies. While these companies at the top make huge profits, they put a deadly squeeze on transport that costs lives. We want these wealthy clients forced to accept responsibility for the rip off and deaths in our industry that they are causing and this must be done through binding federal regulation,” he said.

“When truck drivers are ripped off their wages, it puts pressure on them to work longer and harder just to support their families and this ultimately risks safety. Drivers are forced to speed, drive long hours, skip mandatory rest breaks which are often the cause of deadly truck crashes. Failing to pay truck drivers what they are owed is not only bad for the driver, but it can be catastrophic for other road users.”

This week, Australia recorded its 200th truck driver death since the Federal Government abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. On average, that’s one truck driver killed every ten days.

Today’s judgment reinforces the TWU fight for Safe Rates to ensure truck drivers are appropriately remunerated for the work they do, and that the wealth retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top of the supply chain lift industry standards.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said: “Today’s judgment is a timely reminder that truckies are still being routinely ripped off and not paid the entitlements they deserve. It forces truckies to cut corners and take risks, and makes our roads a much more dangerous place.

When putting food on the table or paying the bills depends on meeting delivery deadlines, you can understand why truckies are forced to take these risks.

Truck drivers are working under extreme pressure to meet the soaring demand of clients like Amazon, whose record profits jumped 224% in the last quarter. With no tribunal in place to regulate the industry, those profits are failing to reach the truck drivers on our roads that are the backbone of the booming e-commerce industry”.

In April 2016, the LNP Government abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, despite its own report concluding that truck crashes would be reduced by 28%.

The Federal Government report which called for the abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal because of its “significant cost to the economy … with any potential safety benefits significantly outweighed by the associated costs”. The tribunal’s annual funding was $4 million, but research shows heavy vehicle crashes cost $4.64 billion a year.

The abolition of the tribunal brought down investigations into safety in deadly sectors such as the transportation of oil, fuel and gas and tore up regulation guaranteeing owner drivers payment within 30 days of completing a job.

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