Devious Theft of Wages

Apr 12, 2018

Owner Driver, by TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon, April 2018

Industry lobby groups are campaigning for drivers to be moved to part-time roles and a loss of full entitlements.

I’m delighted the head of NatRoad has finally come clean and admitted in writing that NatRoad is no friend of truck drivers. But the sub-text of his column in these pages last month is also very obvious: NatRoad is also clearly no friend of transport employers.

NatRoad’s chief executive defended his organisation’s lobbying against “changes that claim to enhance employee rights and entitlements”. In an industry with the highest rates of deaths and injuries, NatRoad has admitted it simply doesn’t want drivers to have any more rights or entitlements.

This even includes NatRoad opposing leave for employees experiencing domestic violence.

This leave allows people to attend doctor’s consultations and legal appointments. But it is also important in taking a stance on an issue which is a scourge on our society and declaring that employees experiencing domestic violence are supported.

NatRoad has also been fairly inventive in coming up with ways to rip off drivers. Because of the stance drivers have taken supported by the TWU, these attempts have been knocked back.

Along with AiGroup, NatRoad made an audacious attempt during a review of the Long Distance Award to introduce part-time work for drivers -just to rip them off. Part-time work could be a positive thing when drivers are approaching retirement and want to wind down the gruelling hours and physical strain as they get older. But this was far from the minds of these employer lobby groups.

The Fair Work Commission saw right through them and made an interesting statement agreeing with a submission from the TWU and passing a damning judgment on the state of the industry: “We accept the submission of the TWU that the provision proposed by the Ai Group would be vulnerable to abuse and could be used in a way which undermined the already limited minimum terms and conditions of the Long Distance Award.”

 

PART-TIME PAWNS

NatRoad clearly doesn’t care about older drivers coming up to retirement. They wanted to bring in part-time work so that drivers could be engaged for part-time hours which could be increased at the whim of an employer while being ripped off their full entitlements.

As the Commission put it: “An employee could be employed on a nominally part-time basis but actually required to perform fulltime driving duties on the cents per kilometre rate. The driver would be disadvantaged because when the driver took leave entitlements he or she would be paid at only a pro-rated weekly minimum rate, not the full weekly minimum rate to which fulltime drivers are entitled”.

A recent decision agreed with the TWU submission to stamp this out. Drivers working part time can only work a maximum of three days per week in a roster set down and agreed in writing at the time of engagement. Any deviation from this schedule will mean employers have to pay drivers a 15 per cent loading on either the cent per kilometre or hourly driving rate.

The Commission’s statement on the state of the industry was a warning shot to the likes of NatRoad: “This potential for abuse must be given significance because the long distance road transport industry is characterised by intense competition, commercial pressure from supply chains and a high degree of award non-compliance”.

The industry groups campaigning for part-time work for drivers clearly have no interest in addressing the power imbalance in the transport industry – or even representing their own transport employer members. By not holding wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top of the supply chain to account for their low-cost contracts, NatRoad is helping clients to literally squeeze the lifeblood of transport operator.

 

DRIVERS RIPPED OFF

NatRoad thinks the only way to represent transport employers is to rip drivers off. But this attempt is just dividing our industry and dragging it down.

Drivers who relocate trucks are currently being ripped off by some employers such as Truck Moves, who are denying them the fair rates they are entitled to and paying them minimum rates for only part of their work – which are even below the award rates.

This is hurting families and destroying businesses as other transport operators struggle to compete.

Driver Dennis Mealin, a former Truck Moves driver, is standing up to this wage theft. He knows all about the safety risks at companies like Truck Moves, where drivers are not paid to travel to collect trucks and are pressured to work long hours.

“I believe the poor way we are paid for the experience that we have shows the problems in the vehicle relocation industry,” Dennis says.

Darrell Haining, a driver who relocates vehicles is also standing up to the injustice of Truck Moves.

“The rates they pay their drivers are a joke. These are truck drivers – driving a truck to relocate it is the same as driving a truck to pick up a load. They are still out on the road and still have responsibility for the truck itself as drivers to for a load,” he says.

It is vital that the entire industry works to stamp out this exploitation and stand up to the wealthy clients who squeeze operators and drivers in turn to the point that safety is ignored and people are killed on the roads.

NatRoad should end its campaign of wage theft and stop using its members’ money to undermine drivers and safety. NatRoad should instead be working to address the power imbalance in transport where clients get to dictate and everyone else is left to subsist on meagre margins.

 

Tony Shelodn is the National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union of Australia

© 2016 Transport Workers' Union of Australia.
Authorised by Tony Sheldon, TWU National Secretary, 388-390 Sussex St, Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia.