Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Freight and Logistics Industry Always Seemingly Dogged by Global Labour Disputes

From Either Side of the Atlantic Come Accusations of Underpayment
Shipping News Feature
US – UK – IRELAND – It seems that the freight and logistics sectors are continually plagued by labour disputes, something we seem to report upon weekly and ranging from sexual discrimination to unfair practices and even violence and murder. This week we look at two arguments on either side of the Atlantic, one involving a road haulage outfit and its 3PL owners, the other seafarers, both however centre on accusations of unfair pay.

Across in sunny California it seems one trucking company stands accused of unfairly treating drivers contracted to work to and from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. California Cartage Transportation Express, commonly known as Cal Cartage Express and a subsidiary of NFI Industries, has seen minimum wage violation claims filed against it with the City of Los Angeles Office of Wage Standards.

These claims allege that Cal Cartage Express, a trucking company with approximately 100 drivers within the NFI/Cal Cartage group of companies that together comprise the largest trucking operation into the two west coast ports, violates Los Angeles’ minimum wage laws by failing to pay the LA minimum wage and failing to provide paid sick leave days.

The claimants further allege that company is currently operating without a permit or lease on City/Port property in Wilmington, California, following the LA City Council’s revocation of its permit over serious concerns of labour violations and resulting labour disruptions. The claims filed allege that NFI/Cal Cartage Express, on average, fails to pay drivers at least one hour a day, every day.

These underpayments, so the accusers allege, are the result of the misclassification of drivers by their employer as ‘independent contractors’ and a piece-rate payment system that fails to compensate workers for required duties done outside of the piece-rate movement. Such duties include conducting daily inspections, cleaning, repairing, painting containers, completing paperwork and filling up gas tanks, all duties for which they are not compensated.

The drivers are supported by the Teamsters Union which further states that NFI continues to face multiple claims in the Courts and with government agencies for misclassifying port truck drivers as independent contractors following its purchase in 2017 of what are now its port trucking subsidiaries, following an ‘explosive’ USA Today series regarding underpayments to drivers.

The union states that agencies, including the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DSLE) and the California Employment Development Department (EDD), have determined that NFI’s port truck drivers are in fact employees. At NFI/Cal Cartage Express alone, there are currently 14 pending claims at the DLSE for $5.2 million in wage theft violations.

In January 2018, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer sued three of the five NFI/Cal Cartage trucking companies, K&R, CMI, and Cal Cartage Express, for violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law by evading paying taxes and misclassifying port truck drivers as independent contractors. In 2018 the US Department of Labor (DOL) fined a Cal Cartage warehouse in Carson $3.5 million for failure to pay federal prevailing wages.

Additionally the Teamsters point out that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued an administrative law judge decision against the NFI/Cal Cartage warehouse in Wilmington amd California’s health and safety agency, Cal/OSHA, has repeatedly cited the warehouse for health and safety violations.

Meanwhile in the UK the RMT Union will this week target the Seatruck Irish Sea ferry operation, accusing the operator dedicated to freight carriage only of paying EU Ratings as little as £3.78 per hour. The union says that the company has consistently rejected its requests for recognition, yet the company has received an award from Mersey Maritime for its business model.

Seatruck carries almost 25% of all freight on Irish Sea routes and the RMT alleges that its profitability is built on the exploitation of staff. The protest will be held at 7.45am, Friday 30th November at the Seatruck Ferry Terminal on Brocklebank Dock in the Port of Liverpool and RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“The Irish Sea should be the bedrock of employment for UK and Irish Ratings. Instead, companies like Seatruck have grown by exploiting seafarers from other EU countries on basic rates of pay as low as £3.78 per hour in order to undercut competitors in the growing Irish Sea freight market. This scandal is driving the decline in UK and Irish Ratings which no island economy can seriously tolerate.

”Our campaign also aims to secure the changes to UK law required to prevent Seatruck and other shipping companies from avoiding the national minimum wage and undercutting local seafarers to reward directors and the ultimate owner, Clipper Group of Denmark. As we approach Brexit, the UK needs to get its house in order, starting with increases in UK Ratings jobs and training at companies like Seatruck where maritime freight growth is built on seafarer exploitation.”