Labour Market, Transport Industry News

Transport industry descends on Canberra to demand reform

Industry representatives from across the political spectrum have come together this week to support positive reform for drivers and workers.

As Australian transport operators face mounting challenges such as escalating costs, a scarcity of drivers, and unfavorable contract terms eroding their profits, unexpected partnerships are emerging.

During the recent delegation organised by the TWU to engage with parliamentarians in Canberra on June 21, an interesting development unfolded.Two representatives from the National Road Freighters Association, who had previously been opposed to the idea of political intervention in the transport market, joined the TWU. Together, they sought political support to address the pressing issues affecting the transport industry.

The TWU is calling on the government to revisit the work and the thinking behind the original Road Safety Renumeration Tribunal in a bid to ensure reasonable contract terms are in place for transport operators and in turn, better pay rates and condition for its members. 

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the scale of the crisis in road transport has hastened unprecedented cooperation in the industry.

“It’s only halfway through the year but we’ve already surged past the dreadful milestone of 100 truck crash deaths on our roads,” Kaine says.

“In the face of an industry that is spiralling towards breaking point, we now see unlikely allies from right across transport uniting to call for change – because we can’t afford not to.

“This crisis in transport affects the entire industry, from gig workers to owner drivers under pressure to drive longer and faster, to employers faced with cannibalistic, unfair competition.

“In 2016 when the RSRT was abolished, the gig economy barely existed. Now it is a deadly additional factor to the supply chain pressures in this industry.

“Wealthy supply chain clients, who are reaping mammoth profits, continue relentlessly seeking a faster and cheaper way while others pay the cost.

“We’re here in Canberra to urge Federal Parliament to act without delay to pass reform that would make road transport safer, fairer and more sustainable, and ensure lives and livelihoods are protected.”

NRFA board member Gordon Mackinlay, who was a key voice against the RSRT in 2016, said it was ground-breaking for the industry to now be so united.

“Members of this industry have been at loggerheads for years, but we’ve all got the same vision for road transport, and we’re here today willing to fight together to make it happen and to get it right,” Mackinlay says.

“When the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was torn down in 2016 the Federal Government put nothing in its place. If you had told me seven years ago that every part of the industry would be on the same page today calling for desperately-needed reform, I wouldn’t have believed you. But we’re together in this because the industry needs fixing, and we finally have a moment to achieve real change.

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“The scale of the unity in this industry is testimony to the crisis road transport is in. We need reform urgently for people to be able to stay in this industry.”

The June 21 delegation included Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation Secretary Peter Anderson, NatRoad CEO Warren Clarke, Tasmanian Transport Association Executive Director Michelle Harwood, National Road Freighters Association member Julie Downey, Linfox President of Industrial Relations Laurie D’Apice, and workers from the TWU.

The TWU says decades of evidence show that financial pressures from cost-cutting in transport supply chains has squeezed operators and drivers and caused dangerous pressure to delay maintenance, meet unrealistic deadlines and stay on the road too long.

It says in the past 12 months there have been close to 200 insolvencies in the trucking industry.

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