The TWU has welcomed Senate approval for an inquiry into the crisis in transport as pressure mounts for Federal Government regulatory action following California’s passing a bill aimed at improving rights for workers in the gig economy.
The plan for the Senate inquiry won overwhelming backing of the industry following two industry forums in Canberra, organised by Senator Glenn Sterle. Truck drivers, the TWU, employer associations, operators and retailers expressed fears at the forums over low standards which are forcing operators out of business, creating safety risks on the roads and potentially allowing the likes of Uber and Amazon’s freight systems to enter the market and destroy the industry.
“Standards are almost non-existent in our industry and they are potentially going to get a lot worse thanks to the likes of Uber and Amazon. At the moment we have transport operators going bust, workers losing their jobs and people being killed in horrific truck crashes every day. We want the Senate inquiry to expose the pressures transport businesses and workers are under from the companies at the top like Aldi which through their contracts are literally squeezing the lifeblood out of our industry. We want it to demonstrate the need for regulatory-enforced standards so that new market entrants have to play by the rules and not further degrade our industry and safety on our roads,” TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“The California legislation proves that standards in the gig economy can be introduced and that workers can have rights. Unfortunately here in Australia the Federal Government has refused to make any such moves and instead workers are left to take on these massive companies themselves, picking them off one by one. Transport businesses are looking on in horror at the prospect of Uber and Amazon freight systems entering the market with the potential effect of obliterating the industry. We hope the Senate inquiry will show the need for regulation and that the Federal Government will be forced to act,” Kaine added.
The Senate Inquiry will focus on the “importance of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry”, according to the terms of reference. It will examine “efficient cost-recovered measures for industry stakeholders, including sub-contractors”.
Amazon’s freight system has reportedly caused up to 30% reduction in rates for transport operators in the US.
The TWU achieved a first win against a gig economy companies in Australia when it won its case for unfair dismissal of rider Josh Klooger, sacked unfairly by Foodora after he raised issues about pay and conditions. The TWU is now taking a case against Deliveroo over gross underpayment.
A TWU survey of food delivery riders in Australia shows three out of every four are paid below minimum rates. Almost 50% of riders had either been injured on the job or knew someone who had. Three UberEats riders have been killed while working.
A survey of over 1,100 rideshare drivers last October showed the average pay is just $16 per hour before fuel, insurance and other costs are taken out. One in 10 drivers has been physically assaulted while 6% have been sexually assaulted.