19 Jul 2018

NZ Post defends conditions for contract courier drivers

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 19 July 2018

New Zealand Post is defending the employment conditions for its contract courier drivers, who are not considered employees but are unable to drive for other companies.

In the past week, Checkpoint has looked at courier drivers - owner-operators, who buy their vans, pay to have their vans decorated in company colours, pay for their uniforms, scanners and other equipment, and drive for courier companies like Freightways and PBT. 

Yesterday, the Christchurch Budget Service said they were seeing contract drivers who were not even earning the minimum wage, after costs. 

State-owned enterprise NZ Post uses a large number of contract workers. John Campbell spoke to NZ Post's general manager for network design and capability, Mark Baker, about the working conditions for its contractors, which the company calls "business partners". 

The drivers are not considered employees, but they cannot drive for other companies, so do not get the protections even the lowest-paid employee enjoys. 

Mr Baker said across its network, it probably had about 1500 "business partners" that delivered parcels for customers.

The "partners" were an important part of NZ Post's model, and were "part of a great team".

He said the miniumum monthly payment for its partners "varied" and did not provide a figure.

"We are not aware of any of our business partners earning less than the minimum wage... it is really really important to us that it does work for our business partners all the time."

If any driver had an issue or concern, they could talk to their fleet manager who would work with them to find a solution.

Contractors worked in the "order of 10 to 12 hours a day", he said, but he acknowledged its "work time rule requirement" allowed up to 14 hours a day.

"We make sure that, we're working with all the partners all the time, that we've got a working environment and working hours that ensure that safety and well-being is catered for," he said.

Partners providing courier services for NZ Post could not work elsewhere, he said.

"Part of the reason for that is to ensure health and safety requirements are met...to make sure they are not working hours that are unsafe."

State-Owned Enterprises Minister, acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, has declined to comment - saying the situation was "an operational matter".