Truckies call off shutdown

The truck drivers' national transport shutdown came to an end on July 30, with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) failing to endorse the action and calling on frustrated drivers to instead lobby the federal government.

Despite well-attended, on-road actions in most capital cities and 40-50% of truckies participating on July 28 — according to National Road Transport Forum leader Mick Pattel — participants voted to end the shutdown two days later.

To explain the cancellation, Pattel pointed to confusion in the industry and a lack of union support, telling media that it was time to "regroup". "We are going to form an association", he told the ABC on July 31. "We're going to try and build a massive membership that will be very hard for the government to ignore."

Drivers have participated in several national protests over the past month — "go-slows" on Sydney's freeways and through Brisbane's CBD — and have faced significant challenges in the decision to withdraw their labour.

Six truck drivers were sacked for attending a stop-work meeting in Adelaide. South Australian truck owners and drivers' spokesperson Robert Harrowfield said they were all from the same company.

Drivers, including owner-drivers and waged drivers, also say they were being seriously undermined by multinational trucking companies. Toll, Linfox and Scotts continued truck supplies around the country for the duration of the shutdown.

The president of the Australian Long Distance Owners and Drivers Association, Bunny Brown, said that "while there has been tremendous support" from the rank-and-file of the TWU, members voted against endorsing the proposed two-week stoppage, crippling its chance of success.

The TWU is instead lobbying the federal government, seeking safe rates of pay and fuel recovery costs from major retailers such as Woolworths and Coles.

The union was part of a march on a Woolworths store in Parramatta on August 1, where hundreds of truck drivers called for better pay rates from the retail giant. Tony Sheldon, TWU secretary, said that while Woolworths is posting record profits, drivers are not seeing benefits.

TWU delegate Raul Bassi told Green Left Weekly that more such actions were needed. "If we want to win, we have to be on the streets", he said.