Australia’s delivery network is set to be delivered another major disruption, with thousands of StarTrack workers walking off the job from Thursday and thousands more planning to join them from next week.
A 24-hour strike against Australia Post subsidiary StarTrack was approved by the Fair Work Commission late on Wednesday, commencing at midnight.
It comes after negotiations between the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and management failed to find a resolution to ongoing disputes surrounding labour hires firm within the broader delivery industry.
Workers say they want a cap implemented on how many outside labourers can be brought in, with a guarantee labour hires will receive the same pay and conditions as they do. The union is also fighting for a commitment that employees are offered work before it is contracted out.
National Secretary Michael Kaine said he was pleased the strike had been approved, amid what he says were false and ‘underhanded’ claims from StarTrack that the union was weaponising the COVID-19 crisis and threatening medical supplies.
“We’re pleased the Fair Work Commission has approved this action, recognising that StarTrack’s attempt to block workers exercising their rights was a deplorable tactic which lacked authenticity,” Kaine said, adding that StarTrack had failed to provide any evidence of this.
“Had StarTrack been genuinely concerned about any impact to vaccines or medical supplies, it would have worked cooperatively with the union to ensure provisions could be made, as undertaken by the TWU.”
An Australia Post spokesperson did not comment on this accusation, but told Business Insider Australia the strike would disrupt deliveries around the country.
“Today’s industrial action will cause delays and delivery impacts, at a time when the delivery of essential items has never been more important.”
The government-owned postal service said it was still negotiating and had offered “job security protections” including ensuring labour hires were paid enterprise bargaining agreement rates of pay, and introducing conversion rights for outside workers.
The statement from StarTrack echoes those issued by Toll, Linfox and Bevchain – which have all either been hit with strikes or threatened with them – as they defend themselves against industrial action.
The union has been waging a broadside against what it says is deteriorating conditions in the industry, at the same time as an ecommerce boom is driving billion-dollar revenues.
“Supply chains are at breaking point, crippled by the double whammy of mammoth demand which is driving record profits, and lethal cost-cutting from wealthy retailers,” Kaine said.
“Everywhere you look, transport workers are in the fight of their lives to stop insidious cost-cutting plans which would gut the decent jobs that thousands of workers and their families rely on.”
FedEx strike on its way
Those threats went up another gear on Thursday, with American multinational FedEx the next in the union’s crosshairs.
Having been approved by 97% of TWU members, workers are scheduled to strike for 24 hours on Thursday 30 September. Combined with the StarTrack strike, the union says the industrial action will involve 6,000 staff.
“After responsibly agreeing to defer bargaining for a year, FedEx workers have been battling for job guarantees for six months and management has dismissed them at every turn,” Kaine said.
“If FedEx had no plans to outsource work, they would have given a commitment on day one. Workers shouldn’t have been put in the position of choosing between strikes and signing a shoddy agreement which would see their jobs express shipped out to the lowest bidder.”
If crisis talks are unable to prevent it going ahead, it would be the third strike in the space of a month to disrupt a major logistics company.
With members approval, there could soon be a fourth should the union not resolve separate negotiations with Linfox and subsidiary Bevchain.
Either way, Australians should brace for further delays this year. Australia Post has already implemented delivery ‘pauses’ to cope with record parcel demand, while the threat of further industrial action looms large.
FedEx has been contacted for comment.