Why the Payment System in the Israeli Trucking Industry is wrong – The alternative proposal of WAC-Maan

<p>Intolerable working conditions and a harmful payment system characterize the situation of drivers employed by trucking companies in Israel. The center of this system is the procedure that allows these companies to pay their drivers not according to actual hours of work but according to the value of the loads they carry. Actually the trucking industry in Israel does not even count the drivers' hours; thus it diminishes the possibility of a system that would limit driving time, increasing the dangers that go with long hours on the road.</p>

A report by WAC-Maan – a new trade union active for organized drivers

Intolerable working conditions and a harmful payment system characterize the situation of drivers employed by trucking companies in Israel. The center of this system is the procedure that allows these companies to pay their drivers not according to actual hours of work but according to the value of the loads they carry. Actually the trucking industry in Israel does not even count the drivers’ hours; thus it diminishes the possibility of a system that would limit driving time, increasing the dangers that go with long hours on the road.

Regulation (EC) 561/2006 of the European Council and Parliament, from 15 March 2006 (Chapter 3 article 10 No.1), makes it clear that “a transport undertaking shall not give drivers it employs any payment, even in the form of a bonus or wage supplement, related to distances travelled and or the amount of goods carried.”

The system includes another factor that makes the life of the driver in Israel more difficult: the limit to the hours of driving is a lot higher than the one specified by the European regulation. The Israeli regulation, which applies to drivers of vehicles above 6 tons (Regulation No. 168), allows for 12 hours of driving per day and 68 maximum per week, while the maximum driving hours according to the European regulation is 10 hours a day (allowed twice a week only) and 45 hours per week (Chapter 2 Article 6, Points 1-3).

The third aspect in which Israel deviates from the regulation’s standard is the fact that Israel did not until today put a date for the application of the foolproof digital tachograph. According to the introduction of the European regulation (Point 32), “Regulation (EEC) 3821/85 should also be amended to ensure legal certainty as regards the new dates for the introduction of the digital tachograph and for the availability of the drivers cards.” Until now Israel has set no date.

This means that the Israeli system contravenes the binding rule of the industry. Although Israel regards the European transport regulations and rules as the standard for its transport industry, it did not implement this commitment in the trucking branch. In addition the Israeli Transport Ministry postpones time after time, with no real justification, the imposition of the digital tachograph.

According to the collective agreement signed in 1993 between the Transport Council of the leading carrying companies and the Histadrut (and renewed several times since then) the base salary of a truck driver is 3850 shekels a month (=$1000), equal to the minimum wage. The employer does not have an obligation to pay overtime or to calculate the driver’s hours of work.

Instead the agreement provides that the driver will be paid an additional bonus to the basic salary, based on a fixed percentage of the value of his work (Article 50 in the collective agreement of 2006). The exact percentage of this “premium” is not specified. The text of the agreement leaves it for the workers’ committee in the company and the management to decide. The average paid in most companies is 10%.

In practice, however, because of competition in the sector, there are no regular transport tariffs, and as a result prices go down. In addition, transportation companies hold the value secret. Since there is no obligation of transparency, the companies pay lower premiums than what the truckers are entitled to. Drivers are unable to calculate the wages due them, and consequently they feel cheated.

A few examples:

In one case, the list price for transporting a full load from the port at Haifa to the port of Ashdod (a three-hour drive) is 1540 NIS. On the premium statement of a driver whom we shall call B, the company claims that it received only 800 NIS for the load. As a result, B, received 80 NIS instead of 154 NIS (the calculated 10% of the total).

In a second case, driver K. received only 55 NIS for carrying a full truckload from Ashdod to Haifa. In other words, the company claimed that the actual price it received was 550 NIS, as shown on his premium statement for January 2010. In addition, he drove empty from Haifa to Ashdod at an actual price of 350 NIS.

These two examples show the absurdity of this system. The drivers were sitting behind the wheel for 3 hours in each of these trips, but each got a different payment – all less than the list price of the trip.

One should bear it in mind that for most drivers the monthly salary is fixed. A driver who starts work agrees with the company on his net wage, and this sum is paid to him regardless of his efforts and extra time. After a while drivers realize that extra effort and time do not bring benefits, and they start to work at the pace that is necessary to keep them on the job without any commitment to the company. This is, to say the least, not the best way to create a work force that is efficient and creative.

Drivers are the victims

The ultimate result of this system is a situation where both the companies and the drivers have a strong incentive to disregard the 12-hour daily limit. The trucking companies make it clear to drivers that the 12-hour limit is not sacred. Drivers who refuse to cross over the 12-hour ‘border’ immediately receive a message that they do not fit and are fired from their jobs. They are pushed to accept very long hours, first to keep their jobs and secondly, to arrive at a higher salary.

Thus the drivers have become “ticking bombs” on Israel’s roads. These long hours mean that some fall asleep at the wheel. No wonder that the level of involvement of truck drivers in fatal accidents is well above the percentage of trucks in the general traffic. According to “Or Yarok”, an independent body that works to reduce accidents in Israel, trucks above 34 tons are involved in fatal accidents at a rate 17.5 times higher than the rate for other vehicles.

According to research by three Israeli scholars who dealt with the causes of fatigue among truck drivers here, trucks are involved in 20% of the fatal accidents while they represent only 6% of the vehicles (see the first link below). This report, which is based on interviews, mentions that 38.1% of the truck drivers questioned had worked longer than the 12-hour legal limit. More than 30% reported falling asleep at the wheel and 41.9% said that their employer forced them to work beyond 12 hours.

WAC-Maan – a new player in the sector

WAC-Maan – an independent trade union of transport and general workers – believes that truck drivers are victims of a system that should be changed. In the summer of 2009, WAC took upon itself the task of organizing the 90% of truck drivers who are not organized in the transport union of the Histadrut. Since the beginning of our organizing campaign we have organized more than a thousand truck drivers.

WAC-Maan’s newsletter called “The Union” is being distributed at the gates of Israel’s harbors and has become a major topic of discussion between drivers and the transport companies. In “The Union” we wrote on several occasions that the reason that truck drivers are over-represented in road accidents is their poor working conditions and a system which obliges them to drive above the number of permitted hours. In response, the Road Trucking Association issued a letter, signed by its spokesman, Mordechai Shifman. He claims that the link made by WAC between drivers’ wages and road accidents is “completely without foundation.” Furthermore, “not one of the companies associated with the Road Trucking Association would compel any of its drivers to work in a way that endangers himself or others.” The Association writes that WAC “provides justification for truck drivers who cause fatal accidents” by asserting that “the rate of pay can be considered to be a cause of the accident.”

WAC-Maan maintains that the Road Trucking Association’s response exposes it as abdicating its responsibilities and shows a determination to ignore the reality of the situation. WAC-Maan disputes the assertion that employers put no pressure on drivers to work more than 12-hour days.

WAC-Maan is active day and night to establish workers’ committees that will negotiate a new collective agreement based on hours of work and not on a vague compensation for output.

WAC-Maan is prepared to cooperate with the Road Trucking Association and with any other party interested in improving the situation for drivers and for the industry. As part of this effort, WAC Maan initiated a meeting with the Histadrut Transport Union, where the two sides discussed the issues we raise here and other issues. This meeting, which took place in December 2009, reflected WAC’s readiness to work with the Histadrut in creating a common front to defend the interests of the drivers.

WAC-Maan and the truckers organized in it are determined to put an end to the current situation. Drivers’ working conditions should be upgraded and work hours should be limited to the European standard. The payment system should be adapted to the European regulations and a date should be set for the introduction of digital tachographs.

This document was prepared by Assaf Adiv – National Coordinator of WAC Maan. For more information on the subjects discussed, contact Assaf Adiv at or 972-50-4330034

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For more information on the trucking industry in Israel see these links:

•Working conditions and fatigue in professional truck drivers in Israeli ports

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1730197/pdf/v011p00110.pdf

•Web page of Or Yarok – an independent body that works to reduce accidents in Israel

www.oryarok.org.il/?p=320

•Israeli Ministry of Transport – land-transport objectives

en.mot.gov.il/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=155:main-objectives-a&catid=41:introduction-c&Itemid=73

•WAC Maan truck drivers unionizing journey takes on new momentum

www.wac-maan.org.il/en/article__170/wac_-_maan_truck_drivers%E2%80%99_unionizing_journey_takes_on_new_momentum

•Truckers – the Dutch model

www.wac-maan.org.il/en/article__175

אודות Assaf Adiv