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Issue #1793      September 6, 2017

Road transport safety

The Transport Workers’ Union has criticised a move to abolish a sugar industry code of conduct saying it will allow working families and small businesses to be exploited by wealthy companies.

The TWU said owner drivers and transport operators will be affected if the code is scrapped, which involves mandatory arbitration in disputes between farmers and wealthy mills.

“The knock-on effect of abolishing this code will be devastating for communities whose livelihoods depend on the sugar industry. This will not just affect sugar farmers but also their employees, their transport contractors, owner drivers and other small businesses linked to this industry. The code allows fairness and equity in an industry dominated by wealthy mills at the top of the supply chain.

“Removing it allows their dominance to prevail entirely over the community. This is about sustainability for family businesses and rural communities,” said TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon.

“The transport industry is all too aware of what happens when regulation is removed and the wealthy end of the market it allowed to dictate. Last year the federal government abolished an independent tribunal which was investigating the affect of low rates on safety in transport.

“Since then we have seen an increase in deaths among transport workers and other road users from truck crashes.

“Wealthy retailers and manufacturers are financially squeezing the industry and more people are dying as a result. I would appeal against any rash move to abolish this code which keeps clients in the sugar industry in check,” Sheldon added.

A disallowance motion to abolish the code, which just came into effect in April, is expected to go before the Senate for a vote this week.

Since the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was torn down last year, fatal crashes involving articulated trucks have increased by over 7%, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. Safe work Australia data shows that 40% of all workplace deaths involved transport workers.

This is up from one in three transport workers last year and one in four in 2015.

Next article – University funding cuts threaten our future

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