TWU MEDIA RELEASE, 22 March 2016
The Transport Workers’ Union at a Senate inquiry has called on state and federal governments to urgently close loopholes allowing untrained, illegal and exploited workers to drive trucks.
The union is making the call following an incident last month when a driver on a temporary visa was unable to reverse his over-sized truck out of Sydney’s M5 tunnel after trying to enter it in error.
Loopholes in state licensing system allow temporary visitors to drive on their overseas licence indefinitely. Training for drivers across Australia needs to be properly audited and the assessment should be independent of the training provider, as it is in NSW. Truck driving is not among the list of professions foreign workers can obtain 457 visas for yet workers in Australia on temporary visas are being hired to drive trucks.
“It is a matter of urgency that these anomalies in our visa, training and licensing systems are closed. They allow employers to exploit overseas workers and put the rest of the travelling public at risk due to economic pressure from clients,” TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon told the Senate inquiry on road safety.
“The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton must explain how he can insist only 10 truck drivers in the whole of Australia have been given 457 visas and yet clearly many more overseas workers are driving trucks. He needs to come clean on what is happening and take action,” Sheldon added.
The TWU is calling for a national auditing, education and industrial rights fund paid into by all employers along the supply chain to address the problem. The fund would ensure companies are meeting safety obligations and that those at the top of supply chains are being held to account for economic pressure work carried out for them. The fund would also educate employers on their obligations while training drivers on safety and their rights at work.
After the incident in the tunnel the TWU lodged a dispute application at the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal following an incident. An initial hearing was held on February 29 and a second round of talks will take place this Thursday with Scott’s of Mt Gambier, the company whose trucks were driven. The TWU is seeking to find out what is going on in Scott’s supply chain that prompts illegal and underpaid drivers who have been denied basic training and appear to be working illegally to be hired.