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Queensland body to tackle transport industry pressures

The TWU is praising the Queensland government’s move to establish an independent transport body that protects traditional workers

The Queensland government has introduced to state parliament a bill that will create an independent standard-setting body that protects against pressures in the transport industry.

The body will give rights and protections to traditional transport operators, owner drivers and transport workers that could guard against the threat posed by the rapidly expanding gig model in transport.

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) says it has long advocated for the introduction of the body which could tackle the ‘Amazon Effect’ that has resulted in transport supply chains being hurt through cost-cutting in transport contracts and unfair competition.

Should the legislation become law, the body would have the ability to set and enforce standards in transport for independent couriers that would tackle the model used by companies like Amazon Flex of engaging drivers below minimum wage. 

In America, Canada and Europe, truck drivers are also now engaged through apps in gig-style arrangements under Amazon Relay.

The TWU says without legislation of the kind proposed by the Queensland government, the future of transport would see workers competing against each other with wages collapsing and no means to negotiate their terms or conditions.

The standard-setting body will be able to make rulings to ensure independent couriers can recover their costs and are not left out of pocket when fuel and other expenses rise, while also allowing independent operators to appeal unfair terminations. 

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TWU NSW/QLD branch secretary Richard Olsen says the capacity of this body to set safe standards in transport will give workers the protections they need now and in the future.

“This is a terrific step forward from the Queensland government and a triumph for the transport workers who have advocated for regulation to ease the deadly squeeze in transport that pressures operators and drivers to speed, drive fatigued or delay maintenance and training,” Olsen says.

“With the imposing threat of the gig economy in traditional transport closing in, the hike in fuel and cost-of-living pressures, this legislation to support cost recovery and fair competition would be life-changing for many transport workers and their families while safeguarding the future of the industry. 

“There is no better time than now to introduce this legislation with transport businesses struggling to stay afloat amid sky-high operating costs. In NSW, transport workers and operators were recently able to apply to a government body to rebalance rates in line with operating costs. There is no reason why Queensland shouldn’t benefit from a system that can achieve this outcome.”

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine says the ‘Amazon Effect’ will continue to spread if our laws don’t catch up. 

“If passed into law, this will be landmark legislation to address the race to the bottom crushing transport supply chains and threatening to put reputable operators out of business and drivers out of secure jobs,” Kaine says.

“The gig economy has exploded over the last decade and with it, we’ve seen hordes of workers lose hard-won rights, while operators paying fair wages and conditions face an existential crisis. 

“This legislation is crucial to ensure Queensland’s transport industry can thrive from top to bottom of the supply chain, protecting all the communities that rely on transport and the drivers who share the road.”

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