No Ticket, No Start---No More!
Australia's Transport Industries and the Unions
It is with a sense of pride that I address you today
on behalf of the National Transport Federation Ltd.
(NTF), representing an industry that is so vital to
Australia's economic and social well-being.
Within the overall theme of this Conference 'No Ticket,
No Start---No More'---I believe I can give you an
overview of an industry---the road transport business---that should be the subject of investigation and
If you want to find an industry to prey upon, road
transport is it. For those who wish to exploit and
hold an industry to ransom, road transport is 'easy
To illustrate this, let me outline the events at the
Yass blockade in July 1988. On Monday July 11, 1988,
about a dozen drivers parked their trucks across the
road at Yass and decided that they would save themselves
and our industry.
By next morning, they were convinced that about 500
other drivers---whose trucks were stopped from passing
through---also felt they were right. On the Monday
night, I was instructed by my Board to go to Yass
to resolve the issue. I had spoken to the people organising
the blockade at different times before and we felt
that they might listen to reason, remove the blockade
and join us in a professional approach to correct
various industry problems involving the Federal Government.
On arrival at the blockade, I saw chaos: no control,
no central committee, no nothing. By Tuesday night,
we had modified the blockaders' demands and had a positive
response from the Government to the majority of undertakings
required. By Wednesday, the blockade committee had
chosen me to represent them.
(I agreed on the condition that all roads were cleared.)
By Wednesday night, a meeting between the blockaders
had been arranged with Senator Evans with the help
of the Transport Department, on the basis that no trucks
would be stopped from leaving the blockade: that was
respected and about 80 per cent of blockaders subsequently
At this stage an interesting development occurred.
A Mr Black appeared mysteriously, voted himself onto
the Committee (which was curiously accepted unopposed
by the committee.) TWU members were encouraged to
burn their TWU cards and join the 'Teamsters Union'.
Black connived to have me removed from the delegation
and remained at the blockade while the Committee went
to Canberra on Wednesday night to have beer and pizzas
with Senator Evans. When committee members returned
triumphantly late on Wednesday night, Black called
for rousing applause for their efforts and then promptly
had them removed from the committee, yelling that the
blockade had the support of the BLF, Painters and Dockers
and other assorted groups. The blockade was resumed
with new-found vengeance and enthusiasm, led by a new,
vigorous group of 'truckies.'
On the Thursday morning, I held a press conference
at the blockade. I informed the media of our fears
that the blockade was now more than ever detrimental
to our industry and to the economy and should be removed.
After my statement, the press universally leapt into
an encore of 'Is it true Mr Gaynor that you have come
here to further the New Right cause?' 'Is it true that
you are using the blockades to help your career and
the political views of the NTF?' And more of the same.
Curiously, nothing was asked about the blockade developments.
On the Friday, NTF members travelled from around Australia
to try to bring some sense into the situation. They
and I were met by BLF flags and T-shirts, pamphlets
by BLF-clad cronies and a hostile crowd.
To their immense credit, our members were able to
isolate the trouble-makers and talk sense into the
vast majority of those wanting to go home and get on
with the job. By the Friday night, the blockade was
When I returned to Melbourne, I saw for the first
time several pieces in the Australian Financial Review
welcoming me to the New Right. I also appeared on the
TV'AM' program, to talk about the misuse of statistics
and economic matters relating to issues central to
the blockaders' demands. In the event, however, the
conversation was isolated to my role in the 'New Right'
and in the blockade.
In short, at the Yass blockade and subsequently, someone
had deliberately misled the media about our intentions
at Yass. We were, however, able to disrupt the plans
of the BLF to infiltrate the transport industry by
starting a union in opposition to the TWU. We managed
to focus on this aspect of the blockade in Business
Review Weekly, (29 July 1988).
The KAOS Environment
Overall, our industry has traditionally been exploited,
held to ransom, used and abused at the cost of the
vast majority of people whose livelihood is dependent
on carrying freight. I emphasise the words 'carry
freight' rather than 'organise freight' deliberately.
In our industry, those who 'carry freight' have little
if any say in their own industry, as I will detail
In short, those that 'organise freight'---the freight
forwarders---have exploited our industry so successfully
and the unions have held our industry to ransom so
effectively that other 'blockaders' have attempted
to imitate them.
I use the word 'KAOS' to describe our traditional
environment. I adopt the spelling K-A-0-S deliberately,
from 'Get Smart'. In 'Get Smart', as all TV lovers
would be aware, the image of confusion and 'chaos'
was extended to the formation of KAOS specifically
to maintain it! The road transport industry is not
much different from this.
KAOS in our industry has manifested itself through
an insidious relationship between the major freight
forwarders and the unions. History will show that
this relationship has resulted in our industry being
badly regulated and overtaxed, with an insulting industrial
relations environment and a deplorable safety record.
Let me give you an example of a situation by no means
unique in our industry.
A Victorian transport company was black-banned by
the union for not being in their Superannuation Scheme
and for not having all drivers in the union. The forwarders'
group represented the company in the State Commission.
In private discussions the union threatened to force
the closure of the company unless both demands were
met. The forwarders' representative, with immense
surprise, chastised the company for not abiding by
the union demands. The representative sent the company
the forms for the union superannuation scheme and for
The question that must be and has been asked, is how
this could occur in an industry that annually carries
1.32 billion tonnes or 80 per cent of all freight in
Australia, with an anticipated 60 per cent increase
in freight movement before the year 2000. Why have
30,000 transport businesses throughout Australia allowed
themselves to be bludgeoned (most often illegally)
into capitulating to union demands without representation
or recourse? Why, in 1989, are these operators so
uninformed about their rights when facing 'blackbans'?
The two partners in KAOS are interesting. One is the
TWU, a 'right wing' union. One-third of its members
are reported to be owner/drivers, most of whom are
illegal members. In fact in Victoria a fortnight ago,
the Victorian Secretary of the TWU---Jim Davis---expelled
a number of owner/driver TWU members who set up a
ticket in the current TWU elections against him. The
reason for the expulsion, as stated in a statutory
declaration by Mr Davis to the electoral commission,
was that the owner-drivers 'are independent contractors
according to Justice Northrop ... in 1981 and to my
knowledge ... have never become eligible for membership
of the Victorian Branch of the TWU'. Interesting!
The other partner in KAOS represents the major freight
forwarders and is concerned with industrial peace
rather than with the industrial repercussions of such
peace. Why? Because the major freight forwarders do
not employ the vast majority of drivers who move their
freight. The employment task is left to the subcontract
companies that paint in the forwarders' colours and
employ drivers. These subcontractors are 'encouraged'
to join the forwarders in dealings with the unions.
Yet the subcontractors have little, if any, say in
industrial matters. Furthermore, the vast majority
of the industry operators outside this group are not
aware of the deals struck, but are told by the union
after the deal is done.
The union and major freight forwarders have a happy
relationship based on 'you scratch my back and I'll
scratch yours'. Unfortunately, the 'fall-out' from
such back-scratching 'contaminates' the rest of the
KAOS, absolute KAOS!
Let me cite three case studies that have occurred
in me last two years.
A subcontractor of a major freight forwarder, employing
over 50 drivers, was told by the forwarder and the
union that he must join their group and become a respondent
to the Interstate Drivers Award if he wanted to do
interstate work. He was informed by the freight forwarder
and the union that he must pay for all employees to
be in the union as well. He did this out of fear and
the belief that if the group told him this, it must
Melbourne company subcontractor for a major freight
forwarder was told that his trucks were being stopped
by the unions at the Sydney depot of the forwarder,
because the driver did not have a union membership
badge or superannuation ticket. The freight forwarder
turned a blind eye, claiming that the problem was not
his. The company was a member of the forwarders' group,
but it would not intervene. The company capitulated.
In August 1988, the NSW Transport Minister made a
directive to his Department to place the NTF on his
Advisory Council. Members of KAOS, who traditionally
advised the Minister, threatened to resign 'en masse'
and lobby against the NSW Government if this occurred.
It took a submission from us to the Premier to have
the Ministerial directive upheld.
KAOS, absolute KAOS!
Establishment of NTF
In November 1986, thanks to the initiative of our
current Honorary Chairman, Melbourne solicitor Haset
Sali, the NTF was formed by twenty transport operators
in the Goulburn Valley, Northern Victoria. The reasons
were simple---no-one in the industry was representing
those transport operators who actually transported
freight and they were sick and tired of being abused.
They had been threatened by unions with adherence to
the Interstate Drivers Award, which had a wage rate
$13,000 per employee in excess of what 95 per cent
of the industry paid. They were continually being stopped
at depots and freight yards by unions for any number
of reasons. They paid 40 per cent more in taxes than
the average of Australian industries and were caught
in an environment that had little regard for road safety.
In two years NTF has grown to now represent over 1,000
transport operators throughout Australia, ranging from
owner/drivers to large fleet owners, and involving
over 10,000 vehicles collectively.
Our goals are fundamental and specific. We aim to
protect our members' legal rights; to provide a safe
and efficient industry environment; to ensure that
we are taxed with equity and with sense; to reveal
the truth about KAOS.
Industrially, in two years we have:
- removed over 100 union 'blackbans' placed on our
- removed a national blockade at Yass (and throughout
Australia) in 1988;
- l challenged the exclusivity of the TWU superannuation
scheme in our Awards (we have been opposed by KAOS
in this matter);
- pursued a total review of the Interstate Drivers
Award which has an artificially excessive wage formula
that is rejected by 95 per cent of the industry. (We
have been opposed by KAOS here too, KAOS having made
this Award by consent In 1980.)
We have also called for and been promised an inquiry
in 1989 into the level of tax paid by our industry.
In 1987, NTF had to deal with an average of two union
industrial blackbans a week, one of which was always
on a Friday afternoon (consistent with the 'hold to
ransom' approach). This continued until late 1987,
when the unions reduced their traditional form of 'persuasion'
Over 100 union blackbans were removed in 1987 and
1988, most within 24 hours and the rest within two
days of their establishment.
The basis of our actions has been to maintain the
legal rights of our members, whilst being careful to
leave each door open for tactical manoeuvres.
It must be remembered that, for generations, the road
transport industry has lived in mortal fear of union
reprisals through blackbans. Our members have repayments
on $200,000 trucks to worry about. Their customers
have delayed freight to worry about.
For operators to hear of a way to uphold their legal
rights without disruptions to work sounded to them
like utopia and beyond. Scepticism was rife in our
early days. The first removals therefore involved a
great deal of work and support for the operators who,
understandably, were petrified that they could lose
their livelihood by taking action so foreign to their
normal procedure for dealing with a 'blackban'---to
The first thing that struck me forcibly was that although
a transport business may sometimes have been incorrect
in its industrial dealings, there was never an attempt
by the union movement to explain the situation professionally.
Rather, the union had an in-built desire to 'blackban'.
Furthermore, it may seem remarkable that an industry
as large as ours could be so easily pushed around;
but it must be remembered that the vast majority of
carriers especially long-distance ones are country-based
and isolated from the day-to-day changes in city-based
Even so, I still find it remarkable to think that
I was dealing with people who had such limited awareness
of their basic legal rights that the idea of calling
on the law as Australian citizens was totally foreign
Perhaps the words of a TWU State Secretary best summed
up the position when he excitedly said to one of our
members: 'When you entered this industry you entered
a whole new world. You're the industry, we're the world
and law'. Unfortunately, the transporters in the industry
traditionally had no choice but to believe such words
until they had the courage to stand up for their legal
rights. Let me give you several examples of the environment
we face and the way we deal with it.
At a major shipping cargo terminal at the Melbourne
Ports, a union delegate decided to stop any truck from
being loaded or unloaded unless the driver produced
a union ticket and superannuation ticket. NTF members
were affected by the decision, and trucks were banked
up at the entrance awaiting some word.
In these circumstances we went to the site and called
for the union representative concerned. The representative
is usually an employee of the site company. We informed
the delegate that we had witnessed his actions in stopping
the trucks and we advised him to seek legal advice
because we would be taking him personally to court.
The representative usually responded that he was a
member of the union and that it would look after him.
We informed him that we were not taking legal action
against the union (yet) but him personally. We gave
him our business card and advised hi to contact the
union movement to see if it would pay for his legal
costs. The ban was usually lifted soon after.
Three trucks of an NTF Director were stopped by a
union at a Melbourne Ports depot because the drivers
were not members of the union movement. The union approached
the customer concerned and the storage depot owner,
telling him that the ban was in place and that they
were not to load the transporter. They agreed, not
We sent a facsimile to the union informing it that
we were aware of the illegal activities and warning
of the legal actions to follow if all bans were not
The union again warned the customer and storage owner
not to load the trucks. The customer informed the union
that he was not involved in the dispute and that the
union should take it up directly with the transport
company. The storage owner told the union that unless
its members removed themselves altogether, he would
take legal action against them himself
The bans were removed, but the union threatened the
company with further bans if all drivers were not made
union members, paid by the company.
We arranged for all drivers of the company to confirm
in writing whether or not they wished to be in the
union movement. We sent the results to the union, indicating
that the company would make time available and the
time of drivers wishing to discuss membership, at a
mutually convenient hour.
The union rang for an appointment, which was arranged
and kept. Two of the thirty drivers joined the union
Observations and Conclusions
The one factor that has stood out in all of these
cases is that the legal system has provided protection
to people---citizens of Australia---against thuggery
In our view there is no difference between thuggery
and coercion by a citizen or thuggery and coercion
by a union. We would see any attempt to change the
law to exclude unions from such recourse as a major
denial of the basic rights of citizens. Instead we
must keep disgraceful acts such as blackbans off the
street and address them in the proper forum of the
Commission or Courts. Without doubt, the major aspect
of our actions industrially in the last two years has
been to apply the law vigorously against the union
movement in our industry until unions learned to respect
the legal rights of our members. In our industry today,
blackbanning is no longer treated as a normal occurrence.
It is now viewed with justifiable rage by transport
companies wishing to uphold their legal rights.
NTF has shown quite clearly that an equitable industrial
climate can exist without street thuggery and coercion.
Today arguments are resolved in the correct forum---
the Commission or the Courts. We have shown that KAOS
is a short-term phenomenon which will not last.
Industrially, things will continue to improve. The
industry is now better educated about its legal rights
and obligations. We have used our own monthly newsletters,
bulletins and the transport media to 'spread the word'.
It is working.
In other words our industry is starting to 'Get Smart'.
For years our industry has had a feeling of guilt
and a 'second-class' attitude. This is changing.
The aim of NTF in raising the profile and stressing
the importance of our industry, as well as pursuing
our members' legal rights, is simply instil pride and
enthusiasm into our members. This will in turn be felt
by our industry's customers and by the Australian economy
as a whole, through a more professional attitude and
service by our members.
The NTF can't do it alone. We need support from like-minded
people who want to see our country move ahead. Support
is coming. Two people here today have joined our team:
Paul Houlihan is now NTF's Industrial Relations Executive;
Fred Stauder is Chairman of our Fund Raising Committee.
Through this support we will be able to enact new
industrial arrangements between employers and employees
with the best industrial advice. For example, in 1989
we will be pursuing a 'certified agreement' under the
new Industrial Relations Act to replace the current
Interstate Drivers Award with an equitable, uniform
and enforceable wage structure.
I believe that the farmers have shown our country
quite clearly that there are tangible benefits flowing
from such an approach.
Before concluding, let me just make two personal observations.
I'm sure everyone here has had experiences that will
stay with them for a lifetime. I've had an early 'baptism
of fire' through the Dollar Sweets case and, last year,
the Yass blockade. Both these experiences taught me
that unless you are energetic in presenting your case,
others will upstage you for their own ends. Media reports
flowing from our purported involvement at Yass are
clear indicators of this---we obviously did not do
our PR job properly.
Those who believe in the benefits to our community
of decentralised industrial relations and the removal
of thuggery and coercion (blackbans) must take the
lead in these matters. I am greatly dismayed by the
very negative press we are getting and the lack of
media input from like-minded respected business people
who hold sincere and legitimate views in this area
at variance with the ACTU and others.
The media will report in a balanced, objective manner
if properly advised of our views. Finally, I believe
that the current Federal Government owes it to the
Australian economy and electorate to distance itself
from a single lobby group---the ACTU---if decisions
are to be made in the national interest free of political
electoral blackmail. It is sad to see wage decisions
being made today with little if any regard for those
who own businesses and must meet the cost of centralised
wage decisions, irrespective of ability to pay and
of the performance of particular industries and the
economy as a whole.
The only way a centralised wage system can be made
more realistic is if entitlements to wage increases
are justified by reference to increased productivity
measured against the performance of our major trading