TWU SA slams Cleanaway for attacks to safety as Supreme court slashes fine over two killed

Transport Workers' Union

Cleanaway drivers in South Australia fighting attacks to pay and safety through enterprise bargaining are appalled that Cleanaway will pay only one quarter of the $12 million fine previously ordered over two deaths in a horror South Eastern Freeway crash.

TWU SA members have grave concerns for the safety of workers and the public as Cleanaway attempts to slash pay through rostering changes and pay increases less than half of inflation that will force them to work longer and faster to make ends meet. Workers are already struggling to manage fatigue and fear this would worsen under Cleanaway’s proposal.

Substandard pay and conditions at Cleanaway are also adding to a labour shortage crisis, meaning workers are being refused annual leave to rest and are forced to rush on shifts to get the job done.

The Supreme Court yesterday rejected all grounds for appeal and upheld the finding that Cleanaway failed “to eliminate or minimise the risk” of danger to employees through inadequate training. However, the initial fine of $12 million has been slashed to $3 million after finding six of the charges were too similar to be distinguished at law.

Drivers have reported recently that training has almost entirely dropped off at Cleanaway in South Australia as the ‘driver trainer’ is on the road to plug driver shortage gaps.

In 2018, criminal charges against the driver involved in the horror 2014 crash were dropped. The driver gave evidence in court that he had never driven a manual heavy vehicle or driven the notoriously steep freeway before the crash and was not supervised to do so. An accident investigator also found the truck had faulty brake linings that should have been fixed prior to the crash.

TWU SA/NT Branch Secretary Ian Smith said Cleanaway is the largest waste company in Australia and Government contracts over decades have driven a race to the bottom on pay, conditions and safety.

“A $3m fine is barely a slap on the wrist for this company. It is responsible for the deaths of two, while a driver who was not adequately trained by the company to drive a heavy vehicle or handle the deadly South Eastern Freeway has suffered lifelong psychological injury. The biggest scandal out of this horrific tragedy is that the same safety issues remain to this day and will get worse under Cleanaway’s proposal.

“TWU members are fighting back as Cleanaway pushes an agenda that will make their jobs more dangerous and put more pressure on workers and their families. Cleanaway is proposing pay increases less than half the inflation rate for workers forced to rush and stay on the road for longer while requests to use annual leave to rest are rejected by the company. Cleanaway has no plan to attract more workers to ease the deadly pressures on drivers and ensure training can take place.

“The directives of the management team are despicable. At the moment, it is looking likely that workers may have to consider taking the last resort option of protected industrial action if the company doesn’t return to the table with decent solutions to improve jobs, pay and safety,” Smith said.

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