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Safe Rates Would Save Lives In The Road Transport Industry

As unions, governments and industry leaders come together for today’s Safe Rates Summit 2021, co-hosted by FIRST Union, it’s time to learn from the international evidence and implement a safe rates system that would save lives on our roads and end competitive tendering models that incentivise unsafe practices in the transport industry, FIRST Union said today.

"Safe Rates refers to the idea that road transport employers and not drivers should be responsible for the actual costs of operating the supply chain, and expenses incurred in delivering a contract should be borne by the actual economic employer rather than squeezing them out of drivers’ wages and conditions," said Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing.

"For years in New Zealand major employers in the road transport industry have been explicitly passing on significant costs in the supply chain to workers, which means pay and conditions have been cut and unsafe practices have taken hold as the norm."

"We’ve heard recently about log books being falsified in the trucking industry as drivers are forced to cut corners on behalf of the actual employer - it’s just one example of how the contracting model penalises drivers and leads to unsafe practices on the road."

"Meanwhile, economic employers have been able to pass on costs to their contractors and obscure the actual cost of doing business while simultaneously weakening the power of drivers to negotiate fair wages that reflect the work required to do the job."

"At the moment, road transport is unfortunately a sector built on a lie."

The global Safe Rates campaign has been marked by victories for the Transport Workers Union (TWU) at the state level in Australia as well as the passage of safe rates legislation in South Korea, where after 15 years of struggle, minimum pay rates were established in 2018. Safe rates or similar systems also exist in the US, Canada and the Netherlands.

The International Safe Rates summit is a virtual tripartite meeting held over two days that will consider international standards and best practices, with the aim of sustaining decent work in the road transport industry and establishing a clear wage floor in New Zealand. It is being co-hosted by FIRST Union, the International Transport Workers Federation, the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union and Oseop Jo, National Assembly Member (Democratic Party of Korea).

"It’s rare that employers and drivers are on exactly the same page, but everyone in the industry knows that current procurement practices are responsible for the mess we’re in," said Mr Abbott.

"And it’s not just the explicit road transport sector either - these issues apply equally in forestry and public transport, where unregulated competitive tendering is driving unsafe behaviour down the supply chain."

For further details on the summit, visit the International Transport Workers' Federation website.

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