Workers at a major parcel delivery company are striking across the country, dealing another blow to Australia’s overwhelmed postal system.
Up to 2000 StarTrack employees walked off the job at midnight in a dispute about pay and conditions after crisis talks and a bid to have the strike action blocked failed on Wednesday.
The Transport Workers Union said it accounted for 70 per cent of the total workforce, but StarTrack said barely a third of the workforce voted to strike.
Workers from FedEx will be the next to strike, after TWU members notified the company on Thursday morning of a 24-hour strike next Thursday.
A StarTrack official said the strike would affect deliveries on Thursday “at a time when the delivery of essential items has never been more important”.
The company said it was offering a guaranteed pay rise of 9 per cent over three years, delivered as 3 per cent compounding each year.
“This is the best pay offer among our competitors. StarTrack is not proposing any reductions in pay or conditions for its employees,” the official said.
The company petitioned the Fair Work Commission on Wednesday to block or delay the strike, saying it would jeopardise lives and health by impacting vaccine supply.
But the TWU said it had promised to support any medical deliveries, and the FWC on Wednesday night ruled the strike could proceed.
Meetings between StarTrack and the TWU on Wednesday failed to secure a solution.
The workers want the company to guarantee labour hire workers will receive the same pay and conditions as regular employees and to place caps on the use of lower-paid external workers.
They also want to be offered work before the company contracts it out.
Crisis talks at rival company FedEx failed on Tuesday. The TWU said 4000 workers would walk off the job after 97 per cent of its member workers voted to strike.
Australians are already facing unusual wait times for deliveries, as Australia Post – which owns StarTrack – struggles under the pressure of a lockdown-induced online shopping blitz.
The postal service earlier this month paused parcel collection services for online retailers for three days in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, which are all in lockdown.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said it was a time when delivery services should be rewarding workers.
“We know the national community would be ashamed that this mistreatment of workers is going on at a government-owned company enjoying record revenues off the backs of its workforce,” he said.
“Demand is sky-high, but standards are at rock bottom.”
Thousands more workers at FedEx, Linfox and Bevchain had also voted to endorse strike action in the past week, he said.