EVERY employee, be it a driver, warehouse worker or loader has a right to bargain with their employer.
This right was recently tested by a general freight company (which for legal reasons cannot be named) that did everything in its power to disenfranchise members from exercising their right to negotiate an Enterprise Agreement (EA).
Earlier this month four drivers approached the freight company about improving their conditions by negotiating an EA. From the outset, the company was uncooperative and threatened to drop the drivers' pay down to the award rate if they continued to pursue their claim.
Infuriated by the tactics undertaken by the company, the four drivers understood that they could not fight the company alone and so they joined the union.
It wasn't until the Transport Workers' Union (TWU) came to be involved that drivers were made aware of the extent of the freight company's attempts to rip them off.
The company wasn't just denying the four drivers their right to bargain, but it had also been paying them less than they were entitled to under the relevant minimum award rate.
The TWU turned up the heat, asking that the company immediately pay the drivers their full entitlements to overtime pay.
Rather than rectifying a simple discrepancy in pay, the company adjusted the times that the four drivers were required to work so that they would no longer be entitled to overtime pay.
The freight company's disregard for the basic rights and conditions of drivers prompted the four members to force a resolution and they refused to work outside their original work hours.
It was only after members took this action that the company agreed to meet members half way.
As a result of pressure from the TWU and members' perseverance, the company has agreed to reinstall overtime pay for drivers and is working towards its first EA with members.
What started as a clash over the company's refusal to negotiate with members turned into a dispute over unpaid overtime.
The reason? Drivers were unaware of their basic rights and conditions. This is an issue that is seen all too often in our industry. That's why it is essential for every driver, both employees and owner-drivers, to know their rights and to join the union.