Transport workers have launched a call for a Senate inquiry to probe the pressures pushing the industry to breaking point.
Shadow Assistant Minister for Road Safety Senator Glenn Sterle on Wednesday said that around 60 transport workers and unions from across Australia all unanimously backed a bid for an inquiry into the sector.
The inquiry, which would probe the commercial pressures on the sector from offshore giants like Amazon, as well as road fatalities, a decline in safety standards and working conditions and the scope of industry regulations including differences across states, is crucial to avert a crisis, transport workers say.
More than 60 representatives from the sector on Tuesday agreed to Terms of Reference for the inquiry at the second national Transport Industry Standards forum.
A minimum award rate and “sustainable” working conditions, safer road infrastructure, better training and the impact of new technologies were among the other issues featured in the Terms of Reference.
The push comes at a crucial time, Michael Kane, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union said, with retail giants like Amazon causing unprecedented pressures on already floundering industry struggling with road infrastructure decay and poor working conditions.
“What we need is an industry that recognises pressures come from the top of the supply chain and overseas front with giants bringing in more work that will undercut market and make it even more dangerous,” Mr Kane said.
The TWU says regulations should focus on ensuring the potential entry of Uber Freight and Amazon’s online freight system doesn’t further drive down standards.
Senator Sterle on Tuesday told Government News he would be putting together delegations of industry leaders who will be sitting with Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Scott Buchholz and Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash in coming weeks to determine the full scope of the inquiry.
An inquiry is “critical,” transport worker Craig Smith-Gander said, with hundreds of companies going into receivership as they grapple with tough market conditions.
“Conditions in every form have been going south for decades so if we don’t act now we will have absolutely have a crisis if we don’t already.
“Not only are companies going out of business, workers are losing jobs, companies are going under and more importantly people undercut and doing things dangerously because only way they can survive.”
The number of major contracts being decided offshore will also feature heavily in the probe, Senator Sterle said, as would issues around the frequency of payments to Australian businesses from these giants – with some workers being paid after 30, 60 or even 120 or more days.
“If anyone thinks our transport companies can carry wages, fuel, insurance, repairs, maintenance paying off debt, taxes and not getting paid for 154 days this is ludicrous,” he said.
While the bid did not yet have government backing, Mr Smith-Gander, said he was optimistic.
“I know we will get bipartisan support and the government will support it,” he said.
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