Amazon’s wage rises: too little, too reluctant

The announcement that Amazon will raise wages in the USA and UK shows that the company’s workers are starting to win the argument for fair treatment, says the ITF.
However, while this move is welcome, it has only been made after widespread criticism of Amazon’s employment model, and serious problems remain across the company’s transport supply chain – including in Australia.
Research by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) shows that Amazon spends more on transport and logistics than most of the world’s largest transport companies. In addition to its warehouse operations, it directly runs van delivery and air freight services and uses a vast subcontracted trucking network, as well as moving huge volumes of goods through ocean shipping.
Although some workers will receive a pay rise as a result of these measures, they stop well short of creating a fair employment model that respects basic worker rights.
ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said: “All Amazon workers across the world deserve decent pay and conditions, and crucially the right to be represented at the negotiating table by independent unions. If Amazon was serious about reform it would make sweeping changes to its transport supply chain.
“That would mean overhauling the employment status of Amazon Flex drivers, who work under ‘pay per delivery’ contracts that are among the most precarious in the gig economy. It would mean enforcing a credible due-diligence system across its trucking supply chain to ensure that labour standards are upheld. And it would mean only using shipping lines covered by ITF agreements, as this is the only way to prevent labour violations at sea.
“Amazon has a long way to go until it can be considered a truly responsible employer. Along with our allies across the labour movement, transport unions worldwide will continue piling pressure on the company until that day arrives.”

Workers are valued: Toll signs worldwide union agreement

The Toll Group has underlined its strong commitment to ensuring safe and fair working standards for all its employees across its 1,200 sites in 50 countries, by signing a unique agreement with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and its affiliated unions.
By signing the agreement, Toll has committed to abide by international labour standards. The ‘global charter of principles’ outlines guiding principles by which crucial decisions will be made around the working conditions for Toll workers focusing on health and safety standards, business strategies and initiatives, improvements in working conditions in developing countries and the development of projects that increase industry standards and safety.
Under the charter, Toll, which represents 44,000 workers in road transport and distribution, logistics, supply chain and warehousing, has committed to making a significant investment in the development and implementation of a global project that will raise standards and safety in its main sectors.
The charter was launched at an event at the ITF’s newly-opened Singapore office, and was attended by ITF general secretary Steve Cotton, ITF head of inland transport Noel Coard, national secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) Tony Sheldon and Michael Byrne, managing director of Toll.
Michael Byrne said the company was delighted to be taking the lead on improving standards for transport and logistics workers.
“Our agreement with the ITF reflects Toll’s broader commitment to creating a strong and viable logistics industry that fosters a safe and rewarding work environment for all. With this charter, Toll and the ITF are setting clear standards to our approach for safety, labour relations and growth in our industry. I am proud that Toll is leading the way and I look forward to working cooperatively with the ITF to shape these future standards,” Mr Byrne said.
Steve Cotton said: “Toll’s workers are vitally important to their success. Their expertise, experience, ideas and motivation make the company what it is. The signing of this agreement truly shows Toll’s promise to put their workers first and we are committed to a healthy working relationship with Toll through full and constructive dialogue.
“The unions we represent continually strive to protect and honour their members and today marks a giant step in the right direction for raising standards for workers.”

TWU warns DPWA fee hike will lead to injury

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) is warning that a huge increase in port access fees by DP World Australia and Hutchinson will result in higher injury and fatality rates in trucking and the loss of jobs.
The Union has called for ship owners to bear the costs, as clients at the top of the supply chain.
The fees at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane ports will heap further financial stress on transport where margins are already tight. The price hike in Melbourne will go from $3.45 to $32.50 per container; in Sydney a new charge of $21.16 will apply for the first time; while in Brisbane fees will go up 30 per cent.
Drivers will come under even more pressure to work long hours, speed and skip mandatory rest breaks while vital maintenance on vehicles will get delayed, the Union wrote in a press statement.
“We are already seeing an increase in deaths and injuries at the moment – last year one out of every three workers killed was a transport worker while deaths from rigid and articulated trucks went up,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon. “We do not need more pressure on transport, we need accountability among the clients which are ultimately responsible for safety in the supply chain.”
The TWU also criticised the imbalance in payment terms for trucking companies – DP World insists on payment within seven days while trucking business can wait up to 120 days for payment. “The Federal Government abolished payment terms for truck drivers when it tore down the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal last year. Its silence is deafening on this burden which is now being placed on drivers at the ports,” said Sheldon.
The TWU fears the price hike will put thousands of owner-drivers out of business. “These small trucking businesses are already subsisting on tight margins and they have among the highest rates of bankruptcies for any businesses. This fee should not be passed on to those at the bottom of the supply chain,” Sheldon added.
The TWU supports industry calls for the ACCC to investigate the fees.
“The TWU will support any owner-drivers taking direct action against the ports over the coming weeks in a similar way to the port blockades of the 1980s and 1990s. We will support drivers standing up to this level of extortion,” Sheldon added.

Three Fatal Truck Crashes on NSW Roads in Three Days

Transport Workers' Union NSW Secretary Michael Aird has said that three fatal truck crashes on NSW roads over the past three days were a tragic reminder of just how dangerous the road transport industry is and reinforced why we need to lift the pressure on truck drivers.

"In the past three days, three people have trafically lost their lives in truck crashes on NSW roads," Mr Aird said.

"These fatalities are absolutely devastating and our thoughts are first and foremost with the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives.

"We are calling on the authorities to conduct a full and thorough investigation of each incident to ensure we find out exactly what happpened. This should also include Workcover NSW because the roads are the truck drivers' workplace."

Mr Aird said that these fatal crashes were a tragic reminder of just how dangerous the road transport industry is, with around 330 Australians hilled in truck crashes every year.

"While we do not yet know what caused these crashes, we have decades of evidence that shows impossible deadlines, dangerously low rates and unrelenting economic pressure on truck drivers creates a cocktail for disaster," Mr Aird said.

"The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was established in 2012 after decades campaigning by transport workers, their families and communities to stop the carnage on our roads. It has the power to hold transport clients to account for their pressure on truck drivers and it has published a minimum rate for some owner drivers that is due to come into force on April 4. 

This will set an absolute floor on the minimum rate to do the job safely, hold clients accountable for their role in the transport supply chain and pay drivers for all their time at work.

"But we have big retailers, politicians and lobby groups determined to see the Tribunal swept away so that the big end of town can keep lining their pockets at the expense of safety on our roads. TWU truck drivers will visit Canberra next week to reinforce the message that profits should never be put before Australian lives."

Smash on M4 Widening Project Highlights Wild West Nature of Government Construction Sites

Transport Workers Union NSW Secretary Michael Aird has said that safety procedures on Government infrastructure projects must be put under the microscope in the wake of revelations of a smash between a crane working on the M4 widening project and a passing B-Double truck that have only come to light ten days after the incident.

"How does a crane working on a construction site smash into a passing truck driving past on one of Australia's busiest roads, and how come the public doesn't hear about it for ten days?" Mr Aird said.

"Tens of thousands of commuters drive past the M4 construction site each day. Mike Baird must reassure them of their safety by launching a full and thorough public investigation of exactly what happened and what steps he is taking to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"It's a miracle no one was killed in this incident -if there had been a passenger in the B-double they would have become another tragic statistic."

Mr Aird said the public needed reassurance that safety was being taken seriously on State projects.

"This smash took place 10 days ago, but it's only coming to light because of today's media report. The public needs reassurance that similar incidents on State projects are not being swept under the carpet," Mr Aird said.

Mr Aird said that the TWU owner drivers had been raising concerns about safety on Government construction projects for several years, but it had fallen on deaf ears. 

"It's like the Wild West on many Government infrastructure projects, with no enforcement of safety procedures or independent auditing of contractors on site," Mr Aird said.

"We're blue in the face from telling Mike Baird's Government about the problems, but there's been asbolutely no action."

"We need proper, independent auditing of all transport operators on Government sites, to ensure that drivers are properly trained and not pressured by clients. We also need to ensure that billion dollar corporations are paying a safe rate which can allow mom-and-dad owner drivers to safely maintain their vehicles and to put food on the family table."

MUA protest in Newcastle against flag-of convenience shipping

250 Australian seafarers are protesting against the federal government actions that encourages Australian companies to use international crews.

A number of Maritime Union of Australia members, Labor and Greens representatives took part in a protest over foreign shipping at Nobbys Beach on Sunday morning.

Before a curious crowd of onlookers, union members painted two board-riders with molasses to simulate the potential environmental threat posed by foreign-owned “flag of convenience” ships.

MUA Newcastle branch secretary Glen Williams said watered-down legislation meant more under-regulated foreign ships trading on Australia’s coast, costing Australian jobs and posing increased risks to the environment and national security.

“Foreign ships that trade under flags of convenience have time and time again come under the spotlight for their atrocious practices when it comes to safety, environmental protection and labour rights,” Mr Williams said.

Australian shipping is supposedly protected by “cabotage” laws that restrict the right of foreign companies to operate in domestic waters.

But the union says the Coalition government has watered down the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012 to the point that it is helping companies get around the legislation to hire 457-style visa crews on “temporary” licences.

Despite various court appeals, Alcoa was recently able to scrap the MV Portland, an Australian ship that had carried alumina to its Victorian smelters from Western Australia for the past 27 years.

Fair Work Rules Linfox Workers can spend public holiday families

Transport Workers Union NSW Secretary Michael Aird has welcomed a ruling that allows night shift warehouse workers in Sydney's West to continue spending public holidays at home with their families instead of being forced into work at the whims Linfox management. 

Mr Aird was speaking after the Fair Work Commission determined that Linfox had no right to unilaterally change the way that it treats public holidays for warehouse workers at Linfox Erskine Park because of a custom and practice in the TWU -Linfox enterprise agreement.

"The whims of managers shouldn't determine whether warehouse workers get to celebrate public holidays with their families or are forced to work," Mr Aird said.

"The nature of night shift work means that your family time is already limited. You work at night so you can support your family and pay the bills. This callous and thoughtless decision to further limit family time was a disgrace. We're glad the Commission has backed our members pre-existing right to spend public holidays with their families in this sensible decision."

TWU delegate and Linfox worker James Mitchell said that Linfox management on site came in with all guns blazing and announced a unilateral change that would have forced warehouse workers to start work at 10pm on the night of a public holiday.

"If management had got their way I wouldn't have got to relax with my family on Australia, ANZAC Day or any of the other public holidays. I'd be keeping an eye on my watch instead of the snags on the barbie," Mr Mitchell said.

"It felt like the manager just woke up one day and decided to change our schedules thus totally changing our lives.

"Because nearly everyone in the yard is a TWU member, we were able to call Linfox managers out over this. We had the support to take the issue into the courts and I am glad things will remain as they should be."

Mr Aird said this was the second time in 12 months the TWU has successfully challenged an arbitrary change to workplace practices by Linfox managers.

"TWU Linfox members negotiated hard to secure a custom and practice clause into the national workplace agreement. This means managers cannot make changes on a whim without reaching agreement with the TWU members," Mr Aird said.

"This is the second time we've given Linfox a legal bloody nose. We hope this serves as a wakeup call for Linfox managers -don't try to arbitrarily upend your employees' lives. Negotiate fairly and honestly and don't waste time clogging up the courts."

Tunnel Incident shows need for industry training, investigation into 457 Visas

The Transport Workers' Union has called for industry-wide training for truck drivers following an incident in the M5 tunnel in Sydney today which caused major traffic chaos. 

The TWU also called on Immigration Minister to investigate abuse of the 457 visa system whereby truck drivers are being brought into Australia on 457 visa, in violation of visa rules.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said the incident in the M5 tunnel caused major disruption to an important thoroughfare in Sydney and economic loss to those affected by it. He said industry-wide training should be carried out under the auspices of a national auditing, education and industrial rights.

“This fund would be important in holding companies to account over safety and standards. At the moment it is the rest of the community which is bearing the brunt of the loss of loved ones and the economic cost of truck crashes and chronic delays as we have seen today,” Sheldon said.

The fund would be paid into by all employers along the supply chain in sectors with high rates of fatalities. It would ensure companies are meeting safety obligations and that those at the top of supply chains are being held to account for work carried out for them. The fund would also educate employers on their obligations while training drivers on safety and their rights at work.

The TWU is also concerned at claims that the driver of the truck today was on a 457 visa. Truck driving is not included in the list of categories for 457 skilled visa holders and Federal Immigration Minister must urgently establish if visas are being obtained for truck drivers.

“I call on the Federal Government to investigate claims that the truck was being driven by a 457 visa holder. This is a very serious issue with huge implication for public safety, given the dangerous nature of trucking,” said Sheldon.

Data from the Fair work Ombudsman last year showed one in five migrant workers on 457 visas are not working in the job they are brought in to do or are not being paid the correct salary.

Around 330 people are killed each year nationally in truck-related crashes. This is the reason trucking is Australia’s deadliest profession, with drivers 15 times more likely to die than any other profession.

Transport union takes action against Jetstar

The Transport Workers’ Union will apply to the Fair Work Commission for good faith bargaining orders against Jetstar. The union is seeking the orders in response to threats by Jetstar that it would ground the airline, similar to the 2011 action of its parent company Qantas.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said: “The travelling public has a right to know that at Christmas time they are being used as pawns by Jetstar in how it treats its workforce. Hardworking aviation workers have a right to negotiate for better conditions without being threatened with being shut out of their jobs.”

TWU said Jetstar employees are the lowest paid workers directly employed by the Qantas group. After 12 months of negotiations Jetstar is still demanding an 18-month wage freeze; demanding workers be available for a six-day week without overtime; and refusing to bring job classifications into line with industry standards. 

“Aviation is an industry marked by the fact that 21 per cent earn below the poverty line of $863 for a couple with two children. Jetstar is owned by Qantas, a company which today forecast it will make up to $1 billion profit in the first six months of 2016. While its workforce are struggling to pay bills the company is paying its chief executive $12 million,” Sheldon said.

“Management have refused to constructively discuss our claims to ensure the workforce is able to earn a decent and fair wage. Jetstar’s tactics are more akin to the bargaining style of 18th century Victorian industrialists rather than a modern airline,” he added.

The TWU has written to Jetstar ahead of lodging an application to the Fair Work Commission today under the Fair Work Act 2009 which dictates that bargaining representatives must meet good faith bargaining requirements.

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