TWU fuel levy proposal goes to arbitration

TWU fuel levy proposal hits roadblock as industry groups and big-name operators refuse to back it

By Brad Gardner

The Transport Workers Union's (TWU) push for a mandated fuel levy has been opposed by industry groups and major transport companies, resulting in the matter being sent to arbitration.

During last week’s hearing before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC), industry groups raised concerns about the TWU’s model.

While saying they sympathise with owner-operators and drivers struggling to contain costs in the face of surging fuel prices, the groups disagreed with the TWU’s proposal.

Those involved in arguing against the Transport Industry—Fuel Levy Contract Determination include Linfox, Toll, TNT, Boral, the Australian Industry Group and the Courier and Taxi Truck Association.

Parties will now need to respond to the union in writing by Wednesday, according to a spokesman for TWU Branch Secretary Tony Sheldon.

He says this will include objections as well as alternative models.

"Following these thoughts in writing they will return for conciliation next Friday," the spokesman says.

If passed, the mandated fuel levy will apply to a number of transport sectors including general freight, car carriers, courier and taxi trucks as well as the excavated, quarried and concrete industries.

The TWU wants the determination to run for three years following its introduction.

Under the TWU’s proposal, prime contractors will be forced to pay an owner-operator or driver a fuel levy to be determined as a percentage of their pay.

The percentage will vary depending on the price of fuel and whether the person being paid the levy is a local or intrastate operator.

The levy for local operators will vary from as low as one percent for a diesel price between $1.60 and $1.68 up to 16 percent for diesel prices between $2.75 and $2.80.

Intrastate owner-operators or drivers will receive significantly more, with the TWU pushing for a 23 percent fuel levy for diesel prices of $2.75 and over.

"Contract carriers who perform contracts of carriage within the state of New South Wales are currently experiencing a crisis in respect of achieving cost recovery for their contracts of carriage due to the exponential increase in the price of fuel since 2007," the TWU states in its application to the IRC.

The application also states prime contractors can apply to the IRC for a total or part exemption from the determination.

Sheldon’s spokesman says the proposal is not about hitting operators with increased costs. He says the measure is designed to force clients such as big-name retailers to pass appropriate costs down the supply chain.

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