A Federal Government code on freight movements will have little impact in addressing problems for drivers and operators amid pandemic disruption, the Transport Workers’ Union warns.
The code, which must be implemented by states by August 17, places the onus of complying with testing, permits and PPE on drivers and fails to deliver paid pandemic leave for drivers forced to wait for tests or to self-isolate.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the Federal Government’s code will heap pressure on drivers and operators battling COVID-19 restrictions.
“We wrote to the Federal Transport Minister last month to explain what drivers and operators need so they could comply with COVID restrictions while keeping freight movements going. Instead of listening to the concerns of the industry and putting in place protections, the Federal Government has developed a flawed code which makes drivers responsible for ensuring compliance on testing, PPE, permits and record-keeping and is utterly silent on how drivers who don’t have access to paid pandemic leave are protected and can keep the community protected. This is what happens when you listen to ideological lobby groups instead of operators and workers on the ground,” Kaine said.
“Nothing in this code will make it easier for drivers to access the complicated permits systems in various states. There is no attempt to address the obvious problems of disrupted supply chains, the financial hardships this has created or the problems it has piled on to drivers forced to speed, work long hours and skip rest breaks. The Federal Government is yet again silent on wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top of the transport supply chain using the current crisis to lower rates and pile financial pressure on our industry,” Kaine added.
“The Federal Government must step up and protect our industry which is a critical service and our drivers who are essential workers. From the start of the pandemic road transport has struggled, with roadhouses shut to drivers and disruption in supply chains threatening businesses. The Federal Government needs to listen to the industry, put in place measures which actually address the problems on the ground and start forcing wealthy retailers and manufacturers to take responsibility since its their goods which are being delivered” he said.
The TWU has called on the Federal Government to
• Co-ordinate a system across the states to make testing and permit requirements easier for drivers and operators to comply with
• Examine the impact on transport supply chains and the drop-off in freight movement which is having a major effect on income for operators and owner drivers. We urge a targeted financial assistance programme for drivers and operators experiencing a fall in income.
• Ensure that major retailers and manufacturers do not cut their contract rates during the pandemic, which will further apply pressure on trucking businesses resulting in cuts to safety which will impact on the risk of infection and spread
• Ensure that truck drivers as essential workers have access to paid pandemic leave so they can self-isolate if required to.
• Ensure that truck drivers do not bear the brunt of fines associated with violations of pandemic restrictions which have been caused because of poor systems implemented by their employer or the client whose goods they are transporting