Jockeys are threatening to disrupt the Melbourne Cup carnival over the lack of government commitment to funding the National Jockeys’ Trust.
The Australian Jockeys’ Association (AJA) says state and territory governments have until Thursday to commit to a one-off investment of $5 million in the Trust, which helps injured jockeys and their families in times of hardship, to avoid industrial action.
Association general manager Des O’Keeffe wouldn’t rule out disrupting next Saturday’s Victoria Derby and other race meetings at Flemington but said the initial action was more likely to be symbolic.
Riders may wear armbands, refuse to go to presentations after races or delay races, O’Keeffe said.
“If the races are delayed over the next fortnight, so be it,” he told reporters at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
“We’re really serious about this, it’s a reasonable request and we need it to be met by state and territory racing governments around Australia.”
The AJA has been running a campaign to secure funding for more than a year and chief executive Paul Innes says they are not prepared to wait any longer.
“We have spoken to all state and territory racing ministers and they have all said they are supportive of the need to look after and protect injured jockeys and their families. Yet they have failed to put their money where their mouth is,” Innes said.
O’Keeffe denied the jockeys were trying to blackmail the governments during the spring racing carnival.
“We’re not blackmailing them but we need some results. These riders shouldn’t be asked to ride, not in the uncertainty of what their future would be if they’re completely smashed as the result of a fall,” he said.
“We have jockeys who have been stopped through life-threatening falls, they’ve fallen on terribly hard times, they’ve fallen through Workcover gaps.
“They deserve better and this $5 million can provide that.”
Jockeys at Moonee Valley endorsed taking action during the spring carnival.
Stephen Baster said he knew a number of jockeys who were struggling after career-ending injuries and families grieving over jockeys who had died.
“I couldn’t tell you how many friends that I’ve lost in this industry while I’ve been in it, just through riding, so it’d be nice to be able to support them.”
The AJA says the industry generates $610 million in annual revenue for state and territory governments.
The Trust, which has been privately funded, has contributed more than $900,000 to 85 applicants over the last three years.
Innes said the reality was that over the next decade between 12 and 15 jockeys would die on the track and countless more left with serious disabling injuries.
“There are 840 professional jockeys in Australia today, 80 per cent of whom earn less than $50,000, and we need to make sure they have a safety net should they become seriously injured,” he said.