FIRST Union is giving away free kimchi-topped hotdogs to truck drivers at a pop-up truck stop in Onehunga today, in a show of solidarity with drivers in South Korea fighting to safeguard and advance their "Safe Rates" system, which sets driver remuneration at safe levels, reducing fatigue and road accidents.
It comes as the Australian Federal Government announces plans to extend nationwide its own Safe Rates system, which in New South Wales alone reduced articulate truck crashes by 171 and saved 205 lives between the years 1989 and 2021.
The union, which represents thousands of truck drivers, is campaigning for the establishment of a Safe Rates system in New Zealand. The South Korean Safe Rates system has led to a 61.7% decrease in falling asleep at the wheel and in overloading, a 39.1% reduction in speeding, a 9% decrease in working hours. Truck drivers there are working 7.4 fewer hours a week under the system and have still grown their net incomes.
"Today’s sausage sizzle aims to connect Kiwi truck drivers with their counterparts in South Korea, who they have much in common with," says FIRST Union spokesperson Mark Muller
"Truck drivers in both countries have seen competitive tendering by the big buyers of transport services fuel a ‘race to the bottom’ on wages and conditions. The system has created these problems, so we clearly need a new system."
An International Transport Workers’ Federation delegation of transport unions from around the world - including FIRST Union - is visiting Seoul this week in support of South Korean union KPTU-TruckSol. The delegation will be addressing the South Korean National Assembly (Parliament), attending rallies of truck drivers and meeting with employer groups to push for legislation to be passed to further embed the system.
Research around the world has identified financial hardship and poor working conditions as contributing factors in road accidents involving truck drivers, which result in fatalities, including amongst the general public. WorkSafe-commissioned report Managing vehicle-related risks from supply chain pressures in 2021 reinforced this for Aotearoa New Zealand, spring-boarding FIRST Union’s campaign for Safe Rates.
WorkSafe data shows over 70% of Aotearoa’s work-related fatalities involve vehicles. In 2021, truck crashes caused 73 fatal injuries, 166 serious injuries and 670 minor injuries. Fatigue was a factor in at least 10%.
"A Safe Rates system is desperately needed in Aotearoa, as driving a truck is a risky occupation," says Mr Muller "Some drivers are on the road 60, 70 hours a week, alongside members of the general public. The last thing we want is for them to be tired, stressed, and racing against the clock to avoid financial penalties. And then there’s the drivers whose bosses pressure them to drive for even longer and fudge their logbooks."
FIRST Union is part of the tripartite Transport and Logistics System Group, which was created to enact the recommendations of the report. The union is leading a survey called Truckin’ Good? on truck driver wages and conditions, to figure out what "really good work" would look like in the road transport industry, which came out of one of the recommendations.
The Safe Rates pop-up truck stop is at BP Connect, Bombay, 216 Mill Road, Bombay from 11 am - 1 pm.