Feature, Industrial Relations, Regulation

TWU leads ‘united front’ against reform delay

OwnerDriver speaks to TWU national secretary Michael Kaine after the transport industry's convoys across the country.

The Transport Workers Union’s (TWU) weekend convoy was one of its biggest yet. After descending on Canberra just under four months ago, the transport industry was more united than ever in its renewed push for legislative reform.

Industry associations, transport operators, small fleet owners, owner drivers, and ‘gig-work’ companies and employees came together across the country to launch their protests in the majority of Australia’s capitals.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine says that the message this time around was loud and clear industry-wide.

The transport industry is pushing for the Closing the Loopholes Bill to be passed as quickly as possible. Originally tabled in parliament in September, a motion was passed to delay the next report on the bill until February 2024.

With aims to change the Fair Work Act 2009 to ease supply chain pressures industry-wide, the convoy participants remonstrated with the motion that the government should act sooner rather than later.

“Everyone that’s been involved in this and on the convoy on the weekend wanted to make the point to the federal opposition that if you’re not in support of this you need to get out of the way,” Kaine tells Owner Driver.

“The bill is the result of a Senate enquiry that took two or three years. There’s nothing surprising about it. And now you’ve had months and months to get across the details.

“We applaud you for your diligence in making sure you get it right, but this convoy was saying you can have the confidence that the entire industry believes it’s right. It was a deliberate approach from everyone involved to send a very, very clear message. Here’s the united front saying we’re confident about this.”

Kaine says that the current reform push dates all the way back to the abolishment of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal in 2016, which functioned from 2012 to set pay and conditions for transport workers.

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This was compounded by the industry moving more towards gig work, with drivers working as sub-contractors and companies like Uber, Doordash and Menulog growing in size in a new wave of transport workers.

With the support of those gig companies, as well as industry associations including the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) and the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), the TWU believes the transport world has never been more united.


“From peak bodies to state associations, NatRoad was out there doing joint media with the rest of us,” Kaine says.

“In addition to that we had the gig companies too. We have Uber, Doordash and Menulog at a Senate committee two or three weeks ago. We had Uber in particular saying they welcomed reform.

“With one voice on the weekend, we have the entirety of the industry from the largest truck driver to gig workers to industry associations supported by gig companies, major retailers saying this should be done. It was unanimous, but also there was a fair amount of anger about the delay.”

Ultimately, Kaine says the point of the convoy was to make it clear that the industry wants reform passed now, not in 2024.

“From a transport workers perspective, I think there would be a pretty broad support to this approach,” he says.

“We want to make sure the supply chain pressures and the commercial contractual pressures that are placed on transport operators and owner drivers and small fleets from the customers that reap the benefits, we want to see them in a much better place.

“We need to make sure there’s more money flowing down the contract chain, and we need to make sure commercial power isn’t used to squeeze contracts and squeeze conditions. The very powerful thing about this legislation is that in a world first it has the capacity to attack those contract chain pressures.”

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