- The Guardian
- Issue #1999
The Transport Workers’ Union has won a landmark determination that means couriers will receive significant improvements to their enforceable rates of pay – including world-first enforceable rates and protections for gig-style Amazon Flex drivers.
The NSW Industrial Relations Commission determination – the result of industry-wide consultation led by the TWU and involving industry groups ARTIO, Ai Group and the NSW Business Chamber, and major transport companies such as FedEx, Global Express and Toll – will see owner-drivers of vans with a carrying capacity between 1.5 and 3 tonnes entitled to an enforceable rate of $43.74 an hour, phased in over three years from 1st March.
The new determination also captures Amazon Flex drivers, who will for the first time be entitled to an enforceable rate of $37.80 to be phased in over the next three years. Amazon has previously noted its drivers are covered by the General Carriers Contract Determination. Under the regulatory instrument, Flex drivers will be the first in the world to enjoy enforceable rates of pay along with rights to dispute resolution, union representation, and collective bargaining.
TWU NSW/QLD Secretary Richard Olsen said that the decision was a long-time coming, and would see significant pay rises for couriers who had gone 15 years without.
“The minimum pay rate for a courier using their own van was set at $28 almost fifteen years ago. Since then, their operating costs have skyrocketed but their pay hasn’t changed, leaving some drivers earning below minimum wage after costs,” Olsen said.
“Today’s decision will be welcome relief to those drivers – an increase of more than forty per cent over the next three years, to finally catch them up to where they should be after fifteen years of stagnant pay.”
“This decision is a massive victory for the thousands of couriers who have been part of the TWU’s Fight for 40 campaign over many years”, Olsen said.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said NSW was the first jurisdiction in the world to mandate enforceable rates for Amazon Flex drivers.
“The impact of this decision will be felt around the world. Gig behemoths are on notice: this is what happens when workers call out these dangerous bottom feeders and fight together for a fair day’s pay.”
“For too long, the likes of Amazon have been able to exploit independent contractor loopholes to sidestep rights and rip workers off fair rates of pay. Today’s win confirms that it’s entirely possible for all workers to have access to enforceable rights and protections, regardless of their employment status.
“While this outcome is incredible for drivers in parts of New South Wales, only Federal regulation will end a national crisis. The Federal Government’s sat on its hands for too long as Amazon executives live the high life on profits made by exploiting hopelessly out of date industrial laws.
“Scott Morrison must immediately put in place an independent body to establish binding standards in transport to stamp out this deadly exploitation of workers, and end the decimation of traditional transport companies which comply with Australia’s industrial and taxation laws”.
Rates of pay for contracted owner-drivers in NSW are generally governed by the General Carriers Contract Determination, which previously did not set enforceable rates for vehicles with a carrying capacity of less than two tonnes.
While some drivers of these smaller vehicle owner-drivers were covered by the enforceable rates in the Courier and Taxi Truck Determination, this instrument has much narrower coverage and its minimum rates have not changed for almost fifteen years.
This determination harmonises enforceable rates across both determinations, ensures all classes of vehicles are covered by both determinations, and significantly improves rates of pay for owner-drivers of smaller vehicles covered by each instrument.
NSW’s owner-driver laws have had considerable success reducing deadly pressures on drivers. According to analysis by leading experts like Griffith University academic Professor David Peetz, fatal truck accidents in NSW declined by five per cent a year between 1989 and 2020 – more than double the rate of decline in States without similar laws.
The TWU last year settled fair agreements with Australia’s largest transport companies to guard against the “Amazon Effect” smashing road transport.
Amazon’s exploitative Flex model has exploded across Australia – highlighting the need for enforceable Federal regulation – with the company operating distribution centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. The company recently called the police on TWU officials investigating serious suspected safety breaches at a Western Sydney depot.
TWU campaigns against the “Amazon Effect” follow similar actions across cities and countries around the globe, coordinated by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). The TWU is an ITF affiliate, with Australian officials holding key leadership positions within the Federation’s Gig Economy Advisory Group.