Good piece in the Sunday Star Times today about the reality of working as a Courier Driver. The impact of cut-throat competition, unfair contracting and a lack of minimum protection for dependent contractors is illustrated well.
Courier drivers are struggling to earn a living wage, with incomes stalled at about the same level as they were 20 years ago, while running costs have exploded. Urgent Couriers’ managing director Steve Bonnici said prices had been slashed due to cut-throat competition, which only intensified during the economic downturn of the past few years. Bonnici said prices have been cut to “ridiculous levels” – and it wasn’t just small, fly-by-night operators doing the cutting. As contractors, drivers had few of the benefits of employees, yet they were still obliged to wear a corporate uniform, work certain hours, apply for annual leave, and work exclusively for one company – as well as providing their own vehicles.
I’ve been on about this for some time now, including calling for SafeRates and better protections for all drivers. My Minimum Wage and Remuneration Bill, which would have provided at least minimum wage protection to these contractors was voted down early in the term of the National Government.
The National government, despite claiming it is the party for small business, has ignored the problems for small business operators like those in the Courier Industry.
“Anecdotal evidence from couriers looking for work indicates some firms are paying less than the minimum wage of $13 an hour. That’s not enough to live on, especially for drivers with families and mortgages”, Bonnici said……
“It’s sad what’s happened to our industry; there are plenty of owner-drivers out there whose revenue before expenses is barely the minimum hourly wage. After they have paid costs out of this revenue they are below the poverty line,” said Paul Holdom, who developed CourierPost Urgent for NZ Post and is now sales manager at Inter City Urgent.
The industry is now coming around to the view that regulation might work better so that there is protection for small business operators who are totally dependent on one firm for their income.
“Every other industry has the minimum wage. You can’t put an ad in the paper offering employment at $7.50 an hour”, Bonnici says.
I’ve had a lot of contact with courier and other drivers over the last three years. Some of their stories are shocking.
Another piece in today’s SST gives an insight into what Labour’s policy will include when it is announced on the 18th October.
Karl Anderson, First Union’s representative for transport and logistics in the Northern Region, said legislative protection was coming in Australia and it was the union’s desire to see it here too.
“I don’t think we have a bolter’s show under a Key government, which is ironic, given they say they are the saviours of small businesspeople,” he said.
Sadly, he’s right.