Transport Workers Union of Australia

The Transport Workers Union of Australia (TWU) is a trade union with over 90,000 members throughout Australia. It has 5 main branches in Australia

The TWU is a union based on the organising model. It is largely progressive and militant. The TWU is affiliated with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the International Transport Workers' Federation. In South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales, the union is affiliated with the Labor Right.

Transport Workers Union of Australia
Full nameTransport Workers Union of Australia
Members68,985 (2018)[1]
AffiliationACTU, ITF, ALP
Key peopleTony Sheldon, National Secretary Michael Kaine, Assistant National Secretary
Office locationSydney

Industries covered

The union has coverage throughout the many sectors of the transport industry including:

  • Road transport (passenger and freight)
  • Aviation (ground services, catering, guest services)
  • Oil, fuel and gas
  • Armoured vehicle drivers, guards and staff
  • Waste industry workers
  • Forklift drivers and dock hands
  • Clerical staff in the transport industry

Whilst technically having wide coverage, the TWU largely focuses on road transport, warehouse distribution, airline operations, bus drivers and the waste industry.

The TWU's coverage of gas industry staff extends from its amalgamation with The Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union (FGEIU) in 1997. South Australia is the only state to have an extensive membership in this industry as it was the base of the FGIEU. It is the only state to have a gas industry sub-branch.[2]


The history of the Transport Workers Union is partly a story of the enormous technological and economic changes to the ways people and goods have been transported across the history of this country. Its main themes are belief that the free market cannot be relied upon to create a safe, efficient and viable transport industry; and that transport workers have stood together to better their pay and conditions.

19th century

In the 1880s, small independent unions of drivers sprang up in the colonies of Australia. Many of these unions were short-lived. It was an extremely competitive industry. A self-employed carrier could set himself up with a basic horse and cart for a relatively small sum of money, and drivers, too, were in chronic oversupply. Conditions were poor and wage-earning drivers worked very long hours for low rates of pay. Much of the available work was casual and seasonal.


Federated Carters and Drivers Union
Members of the Tasmanian branch of the Federated Carters and Drivers Union at an Eight-Hour-Day Parade, circa 1920.

After the turn of the century, small specialised transport unions were established throughout Australia. These included separate unions of milk carters, bread carters, and fuel and fodder carters. Numbers of wage-earning drivers increased in the major cities during this period as carrying firms grew in size, stimulated by growth in manufacturing. Wharves and railway depots were also important sources of work for drivers. By 1903 it was reported that work had become more stable and less casual. However, conditions were still poor. Drivers could be expected to work up to 19 hours a day. Wages were generally between 25 and 35 shillings a week.

Growth in the transport sector provided a stimulus for carters' unions to reorganise themselves to make them a stronger force. This led to the federal registration of the Federated Carters and Drivers' Industrial Union in 1906. This union is the direct predecessor of today's TWU.[3]

While other parts of the economy experienced difficult times in the years 1914–1939, rapid technological change made road transport a dynamic and rapidly expanding industry. There was an explosion in numbers of commercial motor vehicles in Australia during the 1920s. Advances in truck construction and decreasing costs made road transport a serious competitor to the railways for the first time. These changes put the union in a stronger position to fight for shorter working hours and other improved conditions. However, the union itself had to adapt and make the transition from the horse-drawn era to the new world of trucks and cars.

In 1925, representatives of the Federated Carters and Drivers' Industrial Union, the Trolley, Draymen and Carters' Union[4] and the Motor Transport and Chauffeurs' Association met to plan the establishment of a new union capable of representing all persons employed in connection with the transport of people or goods by road. This led to the Amalgamated Road Transport Workers Union becoming federally registered in 1928.[5]

Despite these attempts to create a stronger organisation, the Great Depression hit the union hard. The Queensland branch survived the depression best. Yet even there, award conditions couldn't survive the pressure of mass unemployment. It was estimated that many workers had their conditions returned to those of the 1880s. In Victoria casual employment had again become the norm with gangs of men waiting outside yards all day trying to get work by the hour.


The road transport sector picked up again after the depression. During this period the union's strongest sector was among oil company drivers. In 1937 these drivers were the first in the union to win a week's annual leave—benefits which flowed on to the wider membership in 1940.

In 1937 the union was granted the right to cover persons engaged in connection with the transport of passengers or freight by air as well as by road. These members—particularly baggage handlers and porters—quickly became a key sector within the Union. Their bargaining power won improvements in pay and conditions which in turn benefited union members in other sectors. To reflect the change in coverage, in 1938 the union adopted its current name, the Transport Workers Union of Australia.[6]

World War II saw major changes within the road transport industry, with acute labour shortages resulting in long hours and high wages for drivers. After the war the road transport industry was rationalised as smaller operators were forced out of the business by larger, more efficient firms. These larger companies introduced new methods of work, using specialised bulk tankers, forklifts and pallets to lower costs and increase productivity.

The road transport industry grew strongly after the war and the sophistication and size of trucks increased. By the end of the 1960s, large articulated trucks accounted for 56% of all tonne-kilometres performed by road transport. By this time waves of takeovers had reorganised the industry with small local firms being taken over by large national transport companies. By 1966 five conglomerates dominated the industry – Ansett, TNT, Mayne Nickless, Brambles and Alltrans/Comet. This rationalisation meant that the union also had to reorganise itself into a strong federal body, capable of operating in a nationally co-ordinated way.


Victoria/Tasmania Branch logo

In the early 1960s drivers won substantial wage increases as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission recognised the changing nature of drivers' work in the road transport industry. Heavier loads, the increased use of high-powered, multi-axled articulated vehicles, and the higher levels of skill and productivity required of drivers led to labour shortages and provided the opportunity for the TWU to win large wage increases.

Seeking to minimise their costs, many large companies increased their use of owner drivers to avoid paying award rates of pay to employee drivers. These subcontractors, increasingly discovered they lacked the bargaining power of employee drivers. Forced to negotiate individually with the large prime contractors, they found themselves progressively squeezed throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s as operating costs rose far more than rates. For the first time since the 1880s, owner drivers joined the union in large numbers. They had quickly found the TWU was the only serious industrial force that could stand up to the transport conglomerates.

From the early 1970s, the TWU became a cohesive, centrally directed force with a substantial presence, actively recruiting members and training job delegates. The early 1980s were a time of strong gains in wages and the TWU was for a time the pacesetter, gaining higher wage increases for its members than any other union.


Queensland Branch logo

Ground was lost, however, as the recession of 1982–83 took hold. This downturn stimulated a major restructuring of the Australian transport industry as retailers and manufacturers turned to a system of contract distribution rather than maintain their own truck fleets or engage owner drivers. Contract distribution involved total responsibility for the pick-up, warehousing, distribution and delivery of goods.

Large companies used economies of scale, mechanised and computerised warehouses and close control of their workforce, to reduce costs and the number of employees and vehicles required. Restructuring such as this has led to considerable changes to the work of employee drivers.

In 1987 the TWU amalgamated with Motor Transport and Chauffeurs Association, which gave the union coverage of the private bus industry in Victoria.[7]


When the conservative Howard Government came into power in 1996, the TWU faced new challenges. The focus of membership retention turned to a more organising focus as compulsory membership was made illegal under the Workplace Relations Act 1996. Before this time, union members and organisers could pressure non-union truck drivers against entering union-dominated workplaces.

Membership declined rapidly, but picked up in following years—almost every state increasing membership by 2004. Targeted recruitment and retention campaigns proved successful for the union, as well as increased co-operation between state branches.

In 2006, Federal Secretary John Allan resigned. He was replaced by NSW Secretary Tony Sheldon as Acting Federal Secretary. The head office location was moved from Melbourne to Sydney.

National Secretary Sheldon led the union to success in the 'Safe Rates' campaign[8] with the passing of legislation to establish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal in 2012. The union continues industrial action in the wake of the 2011 Qantas industrial disputes.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Federated Gas Employees' Industrial Union (Australia). S.A. Branch (1927), State rules, sick and accident fund rules, federal rules, The Union], retrieved 24 November 2017
  3. ^ Federated Carters and Drivers' Industrial Union of Australia (1913), Rules of the Federated Carters and Drivers' Industrial Union of Australia, The Union, retrieved 24 November 2017
  4. ^ "TROLLEY, DRAYMEN, AND CARTERS". The Sydney Morning Herald (20, 307). New South Wales, Australia. 10 April 1903. p. 4. Retrieved 24 November 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ Federated Carters and Drivers' Industrial Union of Australia (1913), Rules of the Federated Carters and Drivers' Industrial Union of Australia, The Union, retrieved 24 November 2017
  6. ^ Bowden, Bradley (1993), Driving force : the history of the Transport Workers' Union of Australia 1883–1992, Allen & Unwin, ISBN 978-1-86373-381-6
  7. ^ Motor Transport and Chauffeurs' Association (1947), The Motor Transport union news : official publication of the Motor Transport and Chauffeurs' Association, Trades Hall Melbourne, Motor Transport and Chauffeurs' Association, retrieved 24 November 2017
  8. ^ Safe Rates Save Lives at, TWU, 2016

External links


A number of books have been written about the history of the TWU, including:

  • Bowden, Bradley. Driving Force: The History of the Transport Workers Union of Australia 1883–1992, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1993
  • Bray, Mark and Rimmer, Malcolm. Delivering the Goods: A History of the NSW Transport Workers Union 1898–1986, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1987
  • Kellett, John. A Fighting Union: A History of the Queensland Branch of the Transport Workers Union, 1907–2000, Queensland 2001
  • TWU NSW Branch. Proud To Be A TWU Member: Transport Workers Tell Their Stories, 1999
2007 Williamstown state by-election

The Williamstown state by-election, 2007 was a by-election held on 15 September 2007 for the Victorian Legislative Assembly electorate of Williamstown in suburban Melbourne.

The by-election was triggered when Steve Bracks, the Labor Party member for Williamstown and outgoing Premier of Victoria, resigned from politics on 30 July 2007. Bracks had held the seat since 1994, and had been leader of the state Labor Party since 1999, serving as Premier from 1999 to 2007. Williamstown is generally considered a safe seat for the ALP, and Bracks' predecessor in the seat, Joan Kirner, was also a former Premier.

With the resignation of Premier Steve Bracks on 30 July 2007, a by-election was required. On 4 August 2007 Janet Rice was confirmed to be the candidate for The Greens, the previous day (3 August 2007) the Liberal Party had confirmed that they would not run a candidate. This left Janet Rice as the person most likely to displace an ALP candidate, although she would need to greatly improve upon the vote that the Greens received in the 2006 state election. Former Transport Workers Union of Australia assistant secretary Wade Noonan held the seat for Labor.

Alex Gallacher

Alexander McEachian Gallacher (born 1 January 1954) is an Australian politician and member of the Australian Labor Party. He was elected to the Australian Senate representing South Australia at the 2010 federal election.Gallacher was formerly the state secretary of the SA/NT branch of the Transport Workers Union of Australia, which is aligned with the Labor Right faction. In total Gallacher spent fifteen years at the "top of the South Australian union movement". Previously he worked as a truck driver and labourer.

Andrew Ziolkowski

Andrew Charles Frederick Ziolkowski (12 December 1963 – 12 April 1994) was an Australian politician. He served as an Labor Party Member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1991 until his death in 1994, representing the electoral district of Parramatta. He was one of three New South Wales MPs to die that year, with John Newman (47) dying close before and Tony Doyle (41) following soon after. He was succeeded in office by his wife, Gabrielle Harrison.

Australian Council of Trade Unions

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is the largest peak body representing workers in Australia. It is a national trade union centre of 46 affiliated unions and nine trades and labour councils. The ACTU is a member of the International Trade Union Confederation.

The President of the ACTU is Michele O'Neil, who was elected on 28 July 2018; the current Secretary is Sally McManus.

George Buckley (Australian politician)

George Patrick Buckley (1 May 1881 – 30 October 1958) was an Australian politician.

He was born at Tambar Springs to pastoralist James Walter Buckley and Annie Theresa Comber. He worked as a drayman, and on 22 September 1909 married Jessie Emma Jane Hungerford, with whom he had two daughters. He was an organiser and secretary of the Trolley and Drayman's Union, which in 1928 became the Amalgamated Road Transport Workers' Union of Australia (the Transport Workers Union of Australia from 1938). From 1931 to 1934 he was a Labor member of the New South Wales Legislative Council. Buckley died at Petersham in 1958.

Hughie Williams

Hughie Williams (3 September 1933 - 15 October 2017) was the former State Secretary of the Queensland Branch of the Transport Workers Union of Australia. He was State Secretary from 1992–2010 and was the national president in 2000. He was also State Secretary during the early 1980s and had been secretary of the now defunct Brisbane sub-branch throughout the 1980s.

Hughie was a stalwart of the Union movement in his time as organiser and then Branch Secretary.Hughie dedicated his life to fighting injustices and was instrumental in the protests against the Springboks Tour in the 1970s.On 10 December 2010 Williams stood aside as secretary after being defeated by a landslide defeat in the quadrennial elections by 'The New Transport Worker Team' headed by Peter Biagini.Williams was raised in the coalmining area of Maitland in NSW. Williams has also competed at the 1964 Summer Olympics in wrestling and was involved in organising for Brisbane's 1982 Commonwealth Games.

Williams passed away on 15 October 2017.

List of trade unions

This is a list of trade unions and union federations by country.

List of trade unions in Australia

This is a list of trade unions in Australia. The peak body for unions in Australia is the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

Melbourne Steamship Co Ltd v Moorehead

Melbourne Steamship Co Ltd v Moorehead

was the last of a series of cases in which members of a cartel, described as the "Coal Vend" were prosecuted under the Australian Industries Preservation Act. The majority of the High Court held that the investigation power was spent once a prosecution had commenced and that under the Act, a corporation could not be required to answer questions. While the decision was based on the wording of the specific legislation, its ongoing significance is its foundation for the requirement that the government act as a model litigant.

Natalie Hutchins

Natalie Maree Hutchins (née Sykes, born 9 March 1972), also known as Natalie Sykes-Hutchins, is an Australian politician. She has been an Labor Party member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly since 2010, representing the electorates of Keilor (2010–2014) and Sydenham (2014–present). She has been Minister for Local Government, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister for Industrial Relations in the Andrews Ministry since December 2014.

A former union organiser, Hutchins was first woman to be elected Assistant Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC). She was a Senior Advisor to the former Premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks, Chief of Staff to the former Victorian Minister of Education, Mary Delahunty, and was a founding partner in the research and strategy company Global Workplace Solutions. Hutchins, a member of Labor's Unity faction, is a member of the Australian Labor Party National Executive.

The widow of Steve Hutchins, a former Senator for New South Wales, she has one child and five step-children.


Qantas Airways (; ASX: QAN) is the flag carrier of Australia and its largest airline by fleet size, international flights and international destinations. It is the third oldest airline in the world, after KLM and Avianca having been founded in November 1920; it began international passenger flights in May 1935. The Qantas name comes from "QANTAS", an acronym for its original name, "Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services", and it is nicknamed "The Flying Kangaroo". Qantas is a founding member of the Oneworld airline alliance.

The airline is based in the Sydney suburb of Mascot with its main hub at Sydney Airport. As of March 2014, Qantas had a 65% share of the Australian domestic market and carried 14.9% of all passengers travelling in and out of Australia. Various subsidiary airlines operate to regional centres and on some trunk routes within Australia under the QantasLink banner. Qantas also owns Jetstar Airways, a low-cost airline that operates both international services from Australia and domestic services within Australia and New Zealand; and holds stakes in a number of other Jetstar-branded airlines.

Queensland Council of Unions

The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) is a representative, peak body of Queensland trade union organisations, also known as a labour council, in the State of Queensland, Australia. As of 2014 there are 35 affiliated unions and 13 regional branches. The QCU represents unions covering more than 370,000 Queensland workers. The QCU is the state branch of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). Its offices are located in the suburb of South Brisbane, Queensland.The history of the QCU is intertwined with the history of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Australian labour movement generally. The QCU was formed in 1885 but in 1889 disbanded and transferred all its roles and responsibilities to a newly formed peak body the Australian Labor Federation (ALF) (which despite its name was restricted to Queensland). In 1902 the QCU reformed but again, in 1911, all its delegates moved to the ALF. In 1914 the ALF itself dissolved, its affiliates having been swallowed by the growing Australian Workers Union (AWU). At this time the roles of the QCU were shared by a number of labour organisations, including the Brisbane Industrial Council, the Eight Hour Union and the Brisbane Trades Hall Board. At the end of World War One in 1918 Queensland unions regrouped but it was another four years before 46 unions reformed the Queensland Trades and Labour Council, now known as the QCU.As a peak body for the Queensland trade unions the objective of the QCU is to achieve industrial, social and political justice for Queensland workers. Management structure of the QCU is made up of a committee of management and an executive of 35 representatives, one from each of the affiliated unions.

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The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) is an independent body established by the Gillard government in 2012 to oversee the road transport industry in Australia. The jurisdiction of the RSRT is set out in the Road Safety Remuneration Act 2012.


TWU may refer to:

Telecommunications Workers Union, Canada

Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth, US

Texas Woman's University, Denton, US

Transport Workers Union of America

Transport Workers Union of Australia

TransWorld University, Yunlin, Taiwan

Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Tawau Airport, Sabah, Malaysia – IATA code TWU

The Muster Point

The Muster Point is a monumental public sculpture in Newcastle, Australia that commemorates the Newcastle Steelworks of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited (BHP) and its workers. The plant closed after 84 years in operation. One former worker estimated that "from 1915 to 1961 over 67,000 people had worked on the site". It was fabricated of steel and bronze by sculptor Julie Squires and BHP workers in the Fabrication Shop before the plant closed down. The seventy tonne monument is eight metres high, sixteen metres long and twelve metres wide, and demonstrates the significance of steel making to the city of Newcastle. It was installed on Industrial Drive, in the suburb of Mayfield in 1999.

Transport Workers Union

Transport Workers Union may refer to:

Transport Workers Union of America, active in the United States

Transport Workers Union of Australia

Swedish Transport Workers' Union

Wade Noonan

Wade Mathew Noonan (born 7 April 1971) is an Australian politician. He was a Labor Party member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly from 2007 to 2018, representing the electorate of Williamstown. He has been a minister in the Andrews Ministry since December 2014; initially as Minister for Police and Minister for Corrections (2014–2016), and since May 2016 as Minister for Industry and Employment and Minister for Resources.

Noonan studied at Parade College and the Swinburne University of Technology. He worked as a travel manager for STA Travel from 1990 to 1996, before becoming involved in the union movement. He worked as an organiser for the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association from 1996 to 2002, before shifting to the Transport Workers Union of Australia, where he became federal assistant secretary and federal organising and training officer. He remained in this role until his election to parliament. Noonan's father, Bill Noonan, is a long-time TWU official and Victorian state secretary.In July 2007, Steve Bracks, the then Premier of Victoria and member for the safe Labor seat of Williamstown, suddenly announced his intention to retire from politics. Noonan emerged as an early favourite to win Labor preselection for the resulting by-election, and won the nomination after a deal to install television presenter Angela Pippos in the seat fell through. He was elected on 15 September 2007, defeating Greens candidate, former City of Maribyrnong mayor and future Senator Janet Rice.On 8 February 2016, Noonan announced he would be taking a three-month leave of absence from his ministerial and parliamentary positions to undergo counselling due to exposure to traumatic incidents in his work as police minister. In May 2016, he shifted ministries as a result, changing to Minister for Industry and Employment and Minister for Resources. On 4 October 2017, Noonan announced he was resigning from cabinet and would retire from politics at the next election.

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