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Better future for transport workers under Australian Labor

26 May 2022

The International Transport Workers' Federation has welcomed the election of a Federal Labor Government in Australia, describing it as an opportunity to lift standards for workers and improve workplace safety across the transport supply chain.

ITF affiliates around the world have congratulated Australian unions for their part in defeating the outgoing conservative Morrison government. 

“The election of a new Albanese Labor Government is a result of union members’ long fight for justice and respect,” said Paddy Crumlin, President of the ITF and chair of the ITF Dockers’ Section. Crumlin is also National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia. 

“For nine long years, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have each done their part to persecute, vilify, undermine transport workers and our unions. The clear result coming out of this pivotal election means that we can all now work constructively to repair the damage done to working communities, addressing the issues of biggest importance to the Australian public, and especially for transport workers,” said Crumlin.

National Strategic Fleet to revitalise Australian seafaring

Crumlin noted the commitments by Labor to reform the country’s cabotage rules and build a National Strategic Fleet of Australian-crewed and Australian-flagged ships as both important to creating local jobs, securing the country’s economic future and the nation’s fuel security.

“These are the policies that some of us have put decades into seeing achieved. This is an important victory for all of Australia’s maritime unions. This is the first step to creating local jobs and giving Australia the fuel security that we will need going forward into an uncertain century,” said Crumlin.

“After this long period, and after selling out Australian seafarers and decimating their careers, the conservatives finally turned the corner and supported a strategic fleet,” said Crumlin. “The election win, and now bipartisan support, is crucial to the revitalisation of this critical industry,” he added. 

Labor victory sees unions secure Safe Rates for trucking

The Labor Party has also pledged to introduce an independent body to set universal, binding standards in the trucking sector, designed to make the industry safer, fairer for workers and operators.

The industry is in urgent need of the reforms, after a two-year inquiry by the federal parliament has exposed widespread, and deadly, safety issues facing drivers. The conservatives abolished Australia’s road safety body in 2016. Since then, 1061 people have been killed in truck crashes, including 257 truck drivers. 

ITF affiliate, the Transport Workers’ Union of Australia (TWU), has welcomed the new Labor government’s plan to deal with Australia’s deadliest industry.

“We welcome the new Albanese Government’s commitment to reinstate the ‘Safe Rates’ system. We’ve seen the tragic consequences that have resulted from the previous administration's decision to scrap the road safety watchdog,” said ITF Inland Transport Sections Secretary Noel Coard.

“This is a decision that will save lives and ensure that Australian roads are safer for everyone on them, and it will also ensure that the all employers at all points in the supply chain are held accountable, especially bad actors like the gig-style Amazon Flex who has been dragging down standards and encouraging a race to the bottom in an industry,” said Coard.

“Across the world, we are seeing the Amazon Flex model of underpaying and controlling transport workers via apps and algorithms. Multinationals like Amazon need to be reined in, and we’re glad to hear that the new government is committed to working with unions to do that,” said Coard.

Aviation workers breathe sigh of relief

The new government’s election is also a welcome relief for aviation workers in Australia, who have been stood-down and outsourced in illegal actions by employers that the federal conservatives did nothing to stop. Albanese’s Labor has promised to bring more stability to the industry, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Labor has said the race to the bottom on wages and conditions in this industry must also be addressed.

ITF Sydney co-ordinator, Scott McDine said aviation needed a national plan from the government: “Aviation workers have increasingly carried the load for the Morrison government, whose callous indifference during the pandemic has left these workers with increasing insecurity. They have been stood down, illegally sacked and subject to ever increasing insecurity.”

Aviation is absolutely essential to a nation as big as Australia said ITF Aviation Section Secretary Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez. “Australia is dependent on aviation and we need an industry that’s secure and attractive enough to attract and retain skilled aviation workers. That’s not going to happen as long as the government of the day allows this industry to be only known for its cuts to crew, safety and its misplaced commitment to outsourcing.”

ALP to put the ‘public’ back in transport

ITF affiliates the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) and the TWU campaigned for the Labor Party to promise better public transport. The change of government is likely to see more trains, trams and buses being constructed and delivered to the networks of Australia through the party’s commitment to local procurement. 

“We welcome the election of the Labor Party and its pledges to work with our affiliates on lifting investment in public transport, investment that will create decent, union jobs. This will give Australians both better access to services, and that opportunity to reduce their reliance on carbon-intensive private vehicles,” said Alana Dave, ITF Urban Transport Director.

ITF General Secretary Steve Cotton concluded: “This is a victory for Australian transport workers and their unions, who have campaigned, kept the faith, and worked tremendously hard to see not only a change of government - but a change of a direction that will have a material impact on transport workers’ lives.”