The TWU says the Federal Government is to blame for the collapse of Redstar Transport after it scrapped a road safety watchdog that held wealthy companies to account for their transport supply chain.

Yesterday evening, the Transport Workers’ Union received written confirmation from Redstar Transport that it had appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers as liquidators. The official notice came many hours after the TWU had called for clarification for the 300 plus transport workers it has made redundant “effective immediately”, including reports from truck drivers being told to leave their trucks at their destinations and find their own way home.

The TWU says the company’s collapse is proof of the crisis in the industry and the need for regulation and is calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to act.

“The crisis in trucking has struck again, this time bringing a transport operator to its knees and leaving 300 workers without a job just days before Christmas. Our thoughts are with the workers and their families as they navigate the holidays wondering what comes next,” said TWU National Assistant Secretary Nick McIntosh.

“This is yet more evidence that the Federal Government’s abolition of the RSRT was nothing more than a free pass to the big end of town at the expense of operators being able to survive and pay their workers. This terrible outcome is on their conscience for allowing a deadly pressure to mount on transport operators and drivers and turn our roads into death traps,” McIntosh continued.

“It’s shocking and disgraceful that Industrial Relations Minister O’Dwyer used this situation as an opportunity to have a pop at the union and Bill Shorten rather than showing an ounce of empathy when asked what the Government can do to help the workers yesterday. O’Dwyer and Morrison need to face up to their responsibilities and make sure these workers can see the holidays through while the liquidators assess the company,” McIntosh added.

Since the abolition of the watchdog in 2016, hundreds of transport operators have become insolvent.

An ASIC report shows that 469 companies entered into external administration in the transport, postal and warehousing industries between July 2016 and June 2017. The main reason for the insolvencies was inadequate cash flow.

The Government’s own report also showed a link between road safety and the pay rates of drivers and that the safe rates system would reduce truck crashes by 28%*.

This week the Australian Labor Party announced a commitment to urgently tackle the crisis in transport by setting up an independent body to ensure minimum payments are made.

“We can take encouragement from the Labor Party’s commitment to address the downward spiral in transport. What happened yesterday demonstrates the urgency for a system of safe rates. It’s a damn shame that Redstar couldn’t be saved in time,” McIntosh said.

Since the Government tore down the watchdog, 469 people have been killed in truck crashes.

Since hearing the rumours, the TWU has worked with other operators to get assurances of job opportunities elsewhere. So far, the TWU has received a commitment from Toll as well as Linfox and ACFS. Redstar Transport workers are encouraged to contact their TWU branch.

The TWU is calling on wealthy companies at the top of the Redstar Transport supply chain to donate to the workers who’ve lost their jobs.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: 

Pippa Hatton, 0418 982 257

NOTES

1. Click here for ALP’s amendment on Safe Rates:

https://www.twu.com.au/Home/Campaigns/Safe-Rates/ALP-Safe-Rates-amendment/

2. Transport company insolvencies: the full ASIC report

https://download.asic.gov.au/media/4570724/rep558-published-12-december-2017.pdf 

3.    Safe Rates

In April 2016 the Federal Government abolished a system backing safe rates that was holding wealthy clients such as retailers, banks, oil companies and ports to account for low cost contracts, which do not allow their goods to be delivered safely. This was despite the Government’s own reports showing a link between road safety and the pay rates of drivers and that the safe rates system would reduce truck crashes by 28%*.

 4.     Evidence of pressure

A Macquarie University study in February 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”.

The study also showed that:

•   One in 10 truck drivers work over 80 hours per week.

•   One in six owner drivers say drivers can’t refuse an unsafe load

•   42% of owner drivers said the reason drivers do not report safety breaches was because of a fear of losing their jobs

A Safe Work Australia report in July 2015 showed:

•   31% of transport employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done

•   20% of transport employers accept dangerous behaviour, compared to less than 2% in other industries.

•   20% of transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines – this compares with just 6% of employers in other industries.

 5. Senate report on road safety

In October the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee approved a report recommending industry-led talks to set up an independent body on “supply chain standards and accountability as well as sustainable, safe rates for the transport industry: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Rural_and_Regional_Affairs_and_Transport/RoadSafety45/Report

* PricewaterhouseCoopers “Review of the Road Safety Remuneration System Final Report January 2016” (PWC Review 2016 – published by the Commonwealth Department of Employment on 1 April, 2016)

Transport Workers' Union NSW