The Guardian March 29, 2000


Owner-drivers to get their rights

After many years of exploitation, extraordinarily low wages, no 
entitlements or conditions whatsoever, such as annual leave, long service 
leave or sick leave, owner-drivers in Queensland could be looking at a big 
turn around.

The Transport Workers' Union (TWU) in Queensland is now running a case 
before the full bench of the Arbitration Commission for owner-drivers to be 
deemed to be employees. This will give owner-drivers complete access to 
award conditions.

TWU Queensland Branch Secretary, Hughie Williams, said that the union had 
launched this landmark case, against the company DX Couriers, and was 
confident of winning its application to the Commission.

The application was lodged on December 24 last year and the first 
preliminary hearing was held on February 4 this year at which DX Couriers 
applied to the Commission to stop the TWU singling out the company.

The company's application submitted that the union had to campaign industry 
wide and include all companies across the board.

After hearing legal argument by the union, the Full Bench of the Commission 
rejected DX Couriers' application. This now allows the union to proceed 
with its case against DX Couriers.

Mr Williams said that the application was brought about as a consequence of 
the Beattie Government's new Industrial Relations Act which allows workers 
such as owner-drivers to be deemed as employees.

The union is confident that once the owner-drivers of DX are deemed 
employees the company will be required to pay all its owner-drivers a raft 
of employee entitlements.

The application of the decision will also apply to other courier companies 
who use similar employment arrangements.

The union points out that this will put an end to the industry's reliance 
on poorly paid sub-contractors who are actually substitute employees 
without proper pay and conditions.

Long struggle

Back in 1972 the TWU conducted a campaign with major transport companies, 
most of whose workers were covered by federal awards, but some of their 
employees were owner-drivers.

The union was able to negotiate with the companies to gain award conditions 
for those owner-drivers. However, some companies continued to avoid paying 
award rates and conditions and thus undermined the rights of the true 
contractor.

"The union is looking forward to pursuing the matter across the board to 
ensure that once and for all owner-drivers are treated the same as other 
workers in the industry", said Mr Williams.

* * *
Acknowledgments: The Transport Worker

Back to index page