November 10, 2016

Underpayment of a Sri Lankan truck driver by almost $9,000 highlights the ongoing problem of exploitation in the transport industry, the Transport Workers’ Union has warned.

The union has called for reforms to stamp out exploitation, including additional right of entry and investigative powers for unions; training for migrants on their rights at work; and higher penalties for companies which employ migrants in their supply chains.

Workers imported by companies or arriving in desperate situations should not be treated as cheap alternative labour. Australian governments, businesses and the community should stand together to protect and enhance community rights and not allow this systematic abuse to continue.

The underpayment case comes to light as a parliamentary inquiry today holds a hearing into exploitation of migrant workers in transport. The inquiry, headed up by WA Senator Glenn Sterle, has highlighted the problem of training schools giving licences to people who don’t have the skills to drive trucks. So far 80 people have had their licences cancelled.

The Sri Lankan asylum seeker who found work while on a bridging visa was underpaid over a three month period while working for Melbourne furniture removers, Shelly Removals and Storage. Last February two drivers on temporary work visas held up traffic for hours in Sydney after they could not unhitch or even back their oversized truck out of the airport tunnel.

Wage theft from vulnerable migrants such as this is despicable. We know there are often other factors involved in these cases, such as people with no skills, training experience driving heavy vehicles on our roads. This poses real safety risks to the drivers themselves and the travelling public.

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