Drivers for North Wollongong-based Barnetts Couriers stopped work for 24 hours yesterday over claims they were being ‘‘drastically underpaid’’.
Transport Workers Union senior official Lee Lawler met the drivers yesterday morning to hear their grievances, which included ‘‘questionable franchising arrangements’’ and a ‘‘litany’’ of fees and charges placed on them by the delivery company.
Mr Lawler said the drivers decided to strike after the company declined to address the issues.
The NSW company has its main depot in North Wollongong and employs about 35 drivers in the Illawarra.
Mr Lawler said the company classed the drivers as franchisees, meaning they were being paid substantially less than if they were classified as contract drivers, which was the TWU’s view.
‘‘Our concern is that the company has entered into these arrangements to essentially avoid paying what we regard as contract carriers the appropriate rates of pay,’’ he said.
‘‘If I talk in general terms about the minimum guaranteed earnings for these guys being around $1200 a week, you could say that these people are being paid 50 to 75 per cent less than what they’re entitled to,’’ Mr Lawler said.
‘‘Some of these people are working five 12-hour shifts and taking home $400 a week.’’
The Mercury approached Barnetts Couriers but they said they would not comment on the situation.
Mr Lawler said the work roles of the drivers did not fit the definition of a franchisee.
‘‘They don’t have a designated area they operate in, the company can and does take them from one area to another,’’ he said.
‘‘The company does send other drivers in the area they’re working in to pick up freight, which is essentially reducing their income. It’s not an independently owned and operated business.
‘‘So all those things you would associate with a franchise don’t exist.’’
The TWU lodged a submission with the Industrial Relations Commission yesterday seeking help in reaching an outcome with the company.
The drivers were due to meet again this morning to discuss whether to return to work.