Change in the wind

The calls are get­ting louder for the for­ma­tion of an in­de­pen­dent trans­port in­dus­try body “We won’t give up un­til we have Safe Rates in Aus­tralia.”

Owner Driver - - Twu - Tony Shel­don

SO WHAT was all that for? This is the ques­tion we must surely be ask­ing the trans­port em­ployer bod­ies which sided with the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment in abol­ish­ing fair min­i­mum rates for truck driv­ers two years ago. It turns out this dis­as­trous move, which in the stroke of a pen also abol­ished ac­count­abil­ity on clients like re­tailer Aldi, hasn’t re­sulted in any come-back for these trans­port em­ployer groups at all.

This we can see clearly from the re­cent Fed­eral Bud­get. There was a $2 bil­lion cut to in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing, com­pared to for­wardes­ti­mated fund­ing in the pre­vi­ous bud­get, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion and the peak body In­fra­struc­ture Part­ner­ships Aus­tralia. The Aus­tralian Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion also crit­i­cised the “ab­sence of a ma­jor com­mit­ment to road safety” in the bud­get.

The likes of Na­troad, the Aus­tralian Lo­gis­tics Coun­cil and the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion are look­ing very fool­ish in light of this clear slap in the face. By ce­ment­ing their fail­ures and their in­abil­ity to win for the truck­ing com­mu­nity, these groups have clearly had their day when it comes to in­flu­enc­ing pol­icy.

Things are mov­ing ahead in any case. Driv­ers are clam­our­ing for change and this is be­ing re­flected and en­cour­aged by em­ployer groups with an eye to the fu­ture, not the past. Politi­cians are also tak­ing on the de­mand for change with a cross­party Se­nate com­mit­tee chaired by WA Sen­a­tor Glenn Sterle unan­i­mously back­ing a re­port rec­om­mend­ing in­dus­try-led talks to set up an in­de­pen­dent body on “sup­ply chain stan­dards and ac­count­abil­ity as well as sus­tain­able, safe rates for the trans­port in­dus­try”.

GLOBAL OUT­LOOK

Change is not just hap­pen­ing in Aus­tralia. Safe Rates is tak­ing off globally. On March 30, a Safe Rates Bill passed the South Korean Na­tional As­sem­bly, which will come into ef­fect fully in 2020.

The bill means fair min­i­mum rates will be set for driv­ers in the con­tainer and ce­ment sec­tors. The law also in­cludes client ac­count­abil­ity with rates for trans­port com­pa­nies also set. Vi­o­la­tions of ei­ther driver or trans­port com­pany rates will in­cur penal­ties. This is a huge win for driv­ers in Korea, who have faced harsh con­di­tions for decades.

Pres­sure on driv­ers in South Korea is in­tense, with around 1,200 dy­ing each year in truck-re­lated crashes. Over­load­ing of trucks causes 38 per cent of truck-re­lated crashes.

They are ex­ploited through a multi-lay­ered sub­con­tract­ing sys­tem which means clients have avoided any re­spon­si­bil­ity for con­di­tions, pay­ments or safety.

This struc­ture pro­motes con­stant com­pe­ti­tion to cut rates and a race to the bot­tom in truck­ing.

Owner-driv­ers were forced to go on strike in re­cent years over a 20-year pay freeze. In re­sponse, the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment re­sponded by jail­ing driv­ers, union lead­ers and as­sault­ing them dur­ing peace­ful protests. The Korean win is ma­jor step to­wards guar­an­tee of fair rates for truck driv­ers and will al­low driv­ers to push for wider le­gal and sys­temic re­form.

Wol-san Liem of the Korean Pub­lic Ser­vice and Trans­port Work­ers’ Union said the Bill is im­por­tant in ad­dress­ing the wrongs in the Korean trans­port sec­tor: “We now have a mech­a­nism for client ac­count­abil­ity - this is a first step but an im­por­tant step for­ward.”

This win has given a boost to driv­ers and sup­port­ers fight­ing for real change else­where. The In­ter­na­tional Trans­port Work­ers Fed­er­a­tion is push­ing to bol­ster wins at the United Na­tion’s labour body, the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ILO). These wins in­cluded agree­ment among em­ploy­ers, gov­ern­ments and em­ployee groups at to de­velop a global code of prac­tice which will fo­cus on safe and fair pay rates for trans­port work­ers.

The ILO also passed a res­o­lu­tion recog­nis­ing the need for “fair and safe re­mu­ner­a­tion sys­tems” and high­light­ing that road trans­port work­ers in freight and pas­sen­ger trans­port have “some of the high­est in­jury and fa­tal­ity rates”.

COSY AS­SO­CI­A­TIONS

The world is mov­ing ahead on the reg­u­la­tion of trans­port sup­ply chains. Aus­tralia will be at the fore­front of this change. Our union is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing de­liv­er­ing Safe Rates will re­main at the top of the po­lit­i­cal and in­dus­trial agenda.

We recom­mit­ted to this at our re­cent Na­tional Coun­cil in Ade­laide.

Driv­ers are also be­hind us on this, as driver Frank Black, at­tend­ing a re­cent rally against Aldi, said: “We won’t give up un­til we have Safe Rates in Aus­tralia. This is about fair­ness and it’s also making sure that driv­ers can come home safely at the end of each day.”

Driv­ers and the com­mu­nity that sup­ports them are not con­tent to be at the mercy of the cosy net­work be­tween so-called trans­port rep­re­sen­ta­tive bod­ies and the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment that serves to con­stantly take from them.

They are not con­tent to work them­selves lit­er­ally to death to feed the cor­po­rate greed of wealthy re­tail­ers like Aldi.

Driv­ers in Aus­tralia are fight­ing for a well-reg­u­lated in­dus­try that treats them fairly and has safety as a num­ber one pri­or­ity. Any­one who also as­pires to this goal should join the move­ment to­day: www.safer­ates.org.au

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