Exploited owner drivers working for bread manufacturer Tip Top are in Canberra today demanding that the Federal Government reinstate legislation that dealt exploitation and safety risks in transport supply chains.

Tip Top, which operates in the Aldi supply chain, has been exposed over forcing drivers to struggle with weekly cuts to pay of up to $1000 a week. Last night ABC 7.30 detailed how the stress of the job has resulted in the death of one driver while another driver dying of cancer was hounded by Tip Top to sign a contract which would reduce his rates. A raid by the RMS on a western Sydney Tip Top depot last Friday showed maintenance on trucks is also not being carried out, with 25 defect notices issued out of 46 trucks inspected.

“You feel pushed to breaking point just to get the job done. We’re working long hours six and seven days a week and Tip Top are cutting our rates. At the same time costs and overheads are going up,” said Tip Top driver Paul Clapson.

“I drove four hours for Tip Top last Anzac Day and ended up getting paid $23. It’s a struggle to stay safe and keep a business and a family going on that kind of return,” said Tip Top driver Mark Goldfinch.

“Not only is this exploitation of drivers wrong, it is also compromising safety on our roads. Drivers are being pushed to work fatigued and trucks are not being maintained. There has been an increase in the number of people killed in truck crashes while wealthy clients like Tip Top are getting away scot-free. Michaelia Cash and Malcolm Turnbull tore down the hope these drivers had for ending their exploitation when they abolished the independent road safety tribunal,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

Drivers are pushing for federally-binding rules which can ensure decent standards across the industry and hold wealthy clients at the top of the supply chain to account for low cost contracts. These low cost contracts are forcing transport operators and drivers to delay maintenance, speed, drive long hours and skip mandatory rest breaks. Tip Top is a subsidiary of Associated British Products, which just weeks ago reported over $AUS27 billion in profit.

Fatal crashes involving articulated trucks have increased by 9.4% this year, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. Safe Work Australia data shows that almost 40% of all workplace deaths involved transport workers this year. This is up from one in four in 2015.

Media Contact – Judith Crosbie 0432552895

1. Truck crash deaths statistics
Safe Work workplace fatality statistics: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/statistics-and-research/statistics/fatalities/fatality-statistics-industry
Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics fatal truck crash statistics: https://bitre.gov.au/publications/ongoing/fatal_heavy_vehicle_crashes_quarterly.aspx

2. 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%*.

3. 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 employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done
• 20% 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.

4. Mental health & suicide

A survey released in April showed more than 22% of truck drivers said they had experienced mental health problems. A study by Deakin University showed 323 truck drivers committed suicide between 2001 and 2010. (Suicide among male road and rail drivers in Australia: a retrospective mortality study). An analysis by the Victorian coroner’s court showing truck drivers had the highest number of suicides out of any other profession, with 53 drivers taking their own lives between 2008 to 2014.

* 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
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