TWU calls on industry, governments and unions to enforce sustainable pay rates

By: Jason Whittaker


Transport Workers Union (TWU) Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon is calling for a tripartite approach to developing and enforcing national rates

Transport Workers Union (TWU) Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon is calling for a tripartite approach to developing and enforcing national rates of pay for owner-drivers.

In his address to the 2008 Australian Trucking Convention, the TWU boss told attendees he wants governments, industry bodies and unions to work together to ensure clients are accountable for wage practices across the supply chain. According to Sheldon, this involves ensuring instituted safe rates are backed up by chain of responsibility measures enforced by effective investigatory measures.

During his speech, Sheldon launched an attack on big-name retailers who he says are pushing down pay rates, creating a situation whereby owner-drivers are jeopardising their safety because they must drive for longer, sometimes fatigued, to make ends meet.

Referring to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which show pay rates in the trucking industry fell by 5.6 percent during the 2006-07 financial year, Sheldon says "the wage market is failing".

Sheldon used Woolworths as an example as to why wages have fallen the past year, saying a one percent saving on transport will boost the retail giant’s bottom line by $8.25 million a year.

In pitching his proposal, Sheldon issued a challenge to members of the Australian Trucking Association, saying they "can be part of the problem or part of the solution".

"Safe rates for employees and owner-drivers are the only way to overcome the downward spiral of wages in the industry," Sheldon says.

"Safe rates for employees means being able to work efficiently without compromising safety, and effective cost recovery mechanisms for owner-drivers."

While highlighting GPS-style monitoring tools may play a role in increasing driver safety, Sheldon says the issue will always come back to the economic factor, as drivers will continue to exceed driving limits if they are not paid a decent wage.

During his speech, Sheldon also pointed to the emotional cost of an inefficient wages system, saying low pay contributed the 228 heavy vehicle fatalities last financial year.

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