|Urata, Sterle and Sheldon (l. to r.) met with Teamsters' Hoffa today.|
Australia's Transport Workers' Union (TWU) pushed through legislation several years ago in that country that placed retailers whose goods are hailed by truck drivers on the hook for safety and wage standards. Now it's taking that message abroad.
TWU Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon came to IBT headquarters in Washington today to explain the "Safe Rates" approach approved Down Under in 2012 and how it could improve the lives of truck drivers and motorists globally if it was instituted more broadly. He was joined by Australian Senator Glenn Sterle and Mac Urata of the International Transport Worker's Federation who are strong supporters of the measure.
Sheldon explained the approach as a way to improve not only the pay of professional drivers, but the profits of trucking companies they work for as well:
The concept is who is the economic employer and how do we hold then into account. ... It's about how you change people's consciousness on this.
He noted that giant retailers today largely create the conditions and wage scale that truck drivers are forced to worker under. In Australia, for example, the top two grocery companies make up 72 percent of market and thus if trucking firms want to compete, they need to adhere to their standards.The result is less safe roadways and lower pay for drivers, he said.
But under changes made in the Safe Rates legislation, driver safety and the safety of all road users became the starting point when rates were determined for transporting goods. The result in Australia was the raising of standards for truckers and the strengthening of transportation unions. It's a model he and others want to take worldwide.
Lamont Byrd, director of the IBT's Safety and Health Department, said he was impressed by the TWU's work on the issue:
I see this bringing the solution to the problem we have, not only in crash rates and fatalities, but in reducing the churn rates of drivers.
Sheldon, Sterle and Urata will be further discussing the idea at a global labor conference Sunday.