The Transport Workers’ Union is calling for urgent action to address the alarming increase in deaths among transport workers, which have by far the highest workplace deaths of any industry.
Figures from Safe Work Australia show a spike in deaths among transport workers. This year almost 40% of all workplace deaths involved transport workers, with 19 transport worker deaths out of a total of 51 workplace deaths. Last year over one in three workplace deaths involved transport workers, with 64 deaths out of a total of 178. Previously around one in four workplace deaths involved transport workers.
TWU (VIC/TAS Branch Secretary) John Berger said the Union placed such high priority on workplace safety because, in the transport sector, it could often mean the difference between arriving home at the end of a shift or not.
“Every one of these deaths are incredibly sad for those working within the transportation sector, and especially for those who may have lost a brother, a father, a mate, a mother, the list goes on. Many of these deaths were truck drivers who became victims of the pressures placed on them for simply trying to earn a crust,” John said.
“The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was a good solution to issues within the chain-of-responsibility and the downward pressure placed on drivers until it was dismantled by the Coalition Government a year ago.”
Sadly, the recent 2017 TWU Safety Summit was shown independent Macquarie University research finding drivers breaking road and fatigue laws to avoid losing work was on the rise. It also criticised a “critical gap” since the Government abolished the regulation that the independent tribunal represented, “that can eliminate existing incentives for overly tight scheduling, unpaid work, and rates that effectively are below cost recovery”.
TWU National Assistant Secretary Michael Kaine laid some blame for the increase in deaths at the feet of the Turnbull Government.
“The Federal Government bears responsibility for this increase in deaths. In recent years transport employers and the wealthy supermarkets and manufacturers were on notice that there was a system of scrutiny monitoring safety and holding them to account,” he said.
“A year ago the Government tore down this independent tribunal. The Government knew this would happen – its own report showed the tribunal’s orders would cut truck crashes by 28%. Now transport workers are paying for this move with their lives.
“Now truck drivers are under more pressure to speed, drive long hours, skip mandatory breaks and overload their vehicles. Sadly there is no longer an agency which they can turn to which can investigate unsafe practices in the supply chain”.
The Union is making the demand on International Workers’ Memorial Day.