StarTrack, owned by Australia Post, is the latest logistics company to be threatened with industrial action, after workers voted to strike against management over job security.
On Friday morning, StarTrack staff supported a proposal to walk off the job should the company not agree to a list of demands from the Transport Workers Union (TWU).
They include capping the amount of work that can be outsourced to lower paid contract workers, and a guarantee that work is offered to employees first. The TWU is also seeking guarantees that workers from contract hire firms are given the same pay and conditions as staff.
With seven out of 10 StarTrack employees registered union members, the vote threatens to grind StarTrack operations to a halt should negotiations break down. Responsible for some of Australia Post’s ecommerce delivery services, a strike will only exacerbate ongoing parcel delays.
“At the same time as the company floods yards with contractors with fewer rights, it refuses the crucial job security guarantees employees deserve,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.
“Workers have no choice but to fight for their jobs and they’ve sent that message through a strong vote for the right to go on strike. The ball is in StarTrack’s court and we implore the major transport operator to act responsibly.”
The TWU will now schedule crisis talks with StarTrack, but says workers will strike if concessions aren’t forthcoming.
StarTrack spokesperson Michelle Skehan said the company was disappointed the union was threatening action at “a time when the crucial supply of essential goods has never been more important”.
“StarTrack has put its best and final pay offer to the TWU which includes a market-leading guaranteed pay rise of 9% over three years, delivered as 3% compounding each year,” Skehan said, adding the company “strongly rejects” the suggestion that job security is at risk.
“This is the best pay offer among our competitors. StarTrack is not proposing any reductions in pay or conditions for its employees.”
“As part of the current round of negotiations StarTrack has offered to further enhance job security protections including introducing new labour-hire conversion rights; enhancing casual conversion rights, and improving auditing processes to ensure outside hire supplier are providing [enterprise bargaining agreement] rates of pay.”
The action follows similar threats against a whole range of delivery companies, including Toll, Linfox and Bevchain. At American multinational FedEx, another 4,000 workers will vote on possible strike action next Friday as part of the union’s campaign against the logistics industry in what it says is a fight for job security.
Multinationals and ecommerce giants are enjoying the spoils of a booming online retail market during the pandemic, but Kaine claims the workers who are making it possible are suffering.
“While demand has surged, good, secure jobs are in steep decline under pressure from unregulated, exploitative business models like AmazonFlex,” Kaine said. “Transport operators are scrambling to compete but no matter how deep the cut to their workforces, they will not win the race to the bottom.”
Late last month, thousands of Toll truck drivers put down their tools for 24 hours after both sides failed to reach a resolution. Further talks with Toll and former subsidiary Allegro, now led by former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate, are scheduled over the next fortnight.
Toll maintains its workers are some of the best paid in the industry and has been highly critical of the union’s tactics. They do appear to be yielding some results, however.
Toll, along with Linfox and Bevchain, have all dropped proposals to implement a B-grade pay level, while the union continues to call for Canberra to establish an independent body to set and enforce national safety standards.