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Supply chain in accord for virus impact action

ARTIO, TWU, industry bodies and retailers link to call for political agreement on special measures


An unlikely alliance of supply chain parties has agreed on a unified approach to the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, which would see a deferral of enterprise bargaining in place of additional government measures to protect the road transport industry.

A roundtable involving a wide spectrum of employee and employer representatives, including the Transport Workers’ Union, Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO), National Road Freighters Association (NRFA), and retailers, agree on the following wishlist for industry:

  • designate transport as an essential service
  • banks adopt a “debt holiday” on mortgages, business loan interest, penalty interest
  • payroll tax relief such as business activity statement (BAS) and pay as you go (PAYG) deferral
  • deferral or caps on tolls
  • deferral on commercial vehicle registration fees
  • government assistance through Newstart allowances and top-up pay for companies which need workers to take unpaid leave.

A further call is to ensure retailers and manufacturers pay fair rates on time, with Woolworths pledging to pay transport operators no later than 30 days for completed work.

In turn, the TWU is promising to defer its 2020 industrial bargaining campaign until the outbreak subsides.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine notes supply chain players are willing to “put aside differences – commercial or otherwise” to put forward a “very remarkable display of coordinated action – practical measures – to solidify the road transport industry”

“Now is not the time for industrial parties to be sitting opposite each other and arguing about terms and conditions of employment.

“We are deferring our bargaining cycle, we’re asking employers to join us and cooperate in that call for a deferral, until this crisis is over.

“That’s one immediate step we are taking.

“The [stimulus] package doesn’t go anywhere near far enough and today we’ve heard what is required for this industry – the backbone of Australia – to survive now and into the future and can bounce back after the virus passes.”

Numerous states have moved to lift night-time delivery curfews

The alliance has the buy-in of ARTIO secretary treasurer Peter Anderson.

“We traditionally are enemies of the TWU; we’re a representative of the FWC [Fair Work Commission] and we stand on the other side of the table in industrial issues – but we’re past that,” Anderson says.

“This is a moment of crisis for our economy and community for which we have to respond in different ways.

“Today, we reached bipartisan awareness and agreement and say there are bigger things at risk and we’ve been able to achieve a great milestone – not just in terms of opposing parties but also where we are with this particular crisis.

“People are scared about their health and their jobs – the issue for companies is how to manage decreasing revenues and how to maintain the levels of support for the people who have supported us throughout their working lives.”

Australian Container Freight Service (ACFS) is one of the port operators affected by the trade impasse as a result of the coronavirus.

“I’d like to applaud the TWU for their actions to hold negotiations during this period,” company CEO Arthur Tzaneros adds.

“Working at the ports it’s very important we keep them open and don’t lock the vessels out from coming in. It’s important we keep freight moving

“If we need to keep staff on vessels for 14-day period we can do, but keep the freight coming in.

“What’s imperative is the protection of workers. It’s our job as employers to keep everybody in a job – all our stimulus today has been focused on keeping people in jobs.

“That’s what we’re asking the government to do – look at initiatives to help us keep people employed and keep freight moving which keeps products on shelves.”

The announcement also had the backing of Roe’s Transport and NRFA official Chris Roe. 


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