TWU VIC/TAS Branch News, 7 March 2017
Angry tip truckers drove circles around Victoria’s Parliament House this morning to deliver a blunt message to Spring St: dangerously low industry load-based incentives are compromising safety for all road users.
The horn-blaring protest was designed to drive the message home to Spring St politicians that safety-related issues will never be solved while all the pressure is heaped on the drivers at the bottom of the chain.
The cut-throat tip-truck industry overwhelmingly operates on an archaic pay-by-the-load system – instead of hourly rates – which are often under parity and forces adverse conditions on drivers, such as significant unpaid waiting times and contracts that can be terminated without notice.
It also provides incentives for drivers to, anecdotally, adopt unsafe practices like working dangerously long hours, illegally overloading trucks and breaking road rules.
Over the past 18 months there have been at least five fatalities on Victorian roads, and dozens of single- and multi-vehicle accidents involving tippers, including a fully-loaded truck that smashed into a packed bus.
Transport Workers Union (Victoria and Tasmania Branch) Secretary John Berger said each day in Melbourne hundreds of tip-truck drivers were breaking fatigue laws, speeding, running red lights and, sometimes, rolling when cornering, while packed with over 20 tonnes of construction site debris.
“Our members want to work without the stress of having to cut corners on safety and truck maintenance just to be able to feed their families and pay the bills,” Mr Berger said.
“It is particularly galling that honest and hard-working drivers are receiving dangerously low rates on the State Government Level Crossing Removal and Tullamarine Freeway Widening Projects. Members are protesting at State Parliament to drive this message home.”
The situation is set to worsen with works on dozens of level crossings yet to commence and the Western Distributor and Metro Tunnel projects still to get underway.
The TWU has called on the State Government to:
- Establish minimum rates of pay (hours and overtime) for tippers for all future contracts, including removal of level crossings
- Ensure and maintain proper systems for the safe loading and unloading of tipper trucks, and
- Adopt the recommendations of the Union in its submission to the Review of the Owner Driver & Forestry Contractors Act (ODFC)
In its Review submission, the TWU also called for greater regulatory protections for drivers and supply chain accountability.
By adopting the TWU recommendations, the Government will, in effect, be introducing road safety measures.
Mr Berger said employees who drive for big fleets like LinFox and Toll are already covered under an award rate system while tip truck drivers remain unable to collectively bargain.
“We need this situation fixed immediately, not in a six months or a year. Now,” he said.
*To mitigate against any disruptions to the travelling public, drivers who took part in the protest assembled at muster points on the city fringe before making their way to Spring St.