On the Picket Line

Cleanaway garbage-collectors strikes spread across Australia

By Bob Aiken
May 1, 2023

SYDNEY — Around 100 Transport Workers Union members rallied April 11 at the Cleanaway depot in Erskine Park in western Sydney as part of their fight for new contracts. Workers at the depot there were joined by union members from the Silverwater, Hillsdale and Randwick depots, who were all taking 24-hour strike action.

Cleanaway is the biggest garbage collection company in Australia, with around 5,000 trucks operating out of more than 200 locations. Contracts are negotiated depot by depot.

“Waste worker shortages at Cleanaway have put enormous pressure on workers to work faster and longer,” TWU State Secretary Richard Olsen said at the rally, adding that Cleanaway seeks to impose seven-day rosters and cut penalty rates across the country.

Noting the Australian Council of Trade Unions has demanded the government increase the minimum wage by 7% to keep up with inflation, Olsen said, “We haven’t been offered anything like that.”

Steve Bisley, the TWU delegate at Randwick, told the Militant one way the company was piling work on is “Cleanaway expects the rest of the workforce to cover for any absences” for illness or holidays.

An Erskine Park driver, who didn’t want his name used, said the seven-day roster was a big issue. “We’re doing this for our families,” he said. He works Monday to Friday, eight hours a day starting at midnight, plus overtime as some businesses he picked up trash from didn’t open until 8 a.m. “They just treat us like a number.”

The Transport Workers Union says six people have died in crashes involving Cleanaway trucks in Australia since 2011. In February this year a worker was crushed between two machines at Cleanaway’s Badgery Creek landfill.

Workers at the Canberra depot also struck April 11. Workers at Cleanaway depots in Queensland, Western Australia, and Victoria have voted to take similar action.