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Barton fights for transport worker rights

A Victorian minister wants an independent tribunal to protect transport workers’ rights

Victorian minister Rod Barton is bringing forward a motion to debate in Victorian parliament this week that calls on the state government to establish a tribunal to oversee exploited transport workers.

Barton says that many owner drivers in the transport sector have been subjected to poor working and safety standards due to a lack of bargaining power on their end.

The Victorian MP says this issue has been compounded by the fact that owner drivers aren’t provided with legislative protections under the 2009 Fair Work Act and other industrial standards, creating exploitative and dangerous standards in the road transport industry that Barton wants to change.

In an industry with one of the highest rates of small business insolvency, Barton says the economic pressures to reduce standards is ever-present.

Unlike employee truckies, couriers or gig workers, owner drivers have next to no entitlements according to the politician.

Barton points towards the New South Wales owner driver system, where legislation has been in place since 1996 to protect the pay, condition and rights of owner drivers, as a way for Victoria to catch up and create its own system.

Barton wants an independent body to create legislated standards for all transport workers, with his motion calling for the government to establish a tribunal comprised of industry experts that oversees all non-employee transport work and workers regardless of label.

“Striking isn’t the first option or the second option – it’s the last option because the bills don’t strike with you,” Barton says. “No transport worker should be without guaranteed minimum rates.

“This tribunal will be critical for Victorian transport workers. They deserve the basic rights and workplace conditions that are afforded to their NSW counterparts.”

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Barton’s motion wants an independent tribunal that has the power to:

  • Set minimum and enforceable standards, including pay and conditions
  • Enter into enforceable and certified collective agreements through a bargaining regime
  • Resolve any disputes including unfair terminations
  • Review unfair contracts

By doing so, Barton is hopeful the tribunal would stamp out any exploitation in the industry, as he urges the government and the opposition to provide Victoria’s transport industry workers with basic workplace rights and conditions.

“Truck drivers were our lifeline during the pandemic,” he says.

“We recognised our reliance on them when driver shortages led to empty supermarket shelves. What will become of us when they’re all forced to park up because they can’t turn a profit?”.

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