TWU fuel levy proposal stalls

Conciliation meetings break down as industry groups and transport companies refuse to support new fuel levy proposal

By Brad Gardner

The Transport Workers Union’s (TWU) push for new fuel levy in NSW has stalled following the latest hearing in front of the State’s Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).

Monday’s conciliation meeting failed to achieve any meaningful progress towards a new system as industry groups and big-name transport companies refused to back the union’s proposal.

The impasse forced the IRC to disband further meetings because "they were not getting anywhere", according to a spokesman for TWU Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon.

The union now has at least another two months to try and reach an agreement with the parties opposing the Transport Industry—Fuel Levy Contract Determination before the IRC makes a ruling.

If an agreement cannot be reached by the end of the November, Sheldon's spokesman says the IRC will hear evidence for and against the proposal and then decide whether to introduce it.

Although the union is hopeful a compromise can be reached in time, Sheldon’s spokesman says there has been no move by those opposing the measure to negotiate.

"There has not been an alternative put on the table yet," he says.

A number of companies including Toll, Linfox and TNT are refusing to back the proposal. Furthermore, the State’s peak trucking body has ruled out supporting the TWU.

The Australian Trucking Association’s NSW branch is being represented by the Australian Industry Group, which wants the union’s proposal scrapped.

According to a statement from the ATA NSW, prime contractors may not be able to absorb the increased costs of having to pay fuel levies. It is also opposing the proposal because it seeks to extend to sectors previously exempt from contract determinations.

And despite constant denials by the TWU, the Master Builders Association (MBA) claims the fuel levy scheme is akin to "double dipping" because it will add to current laws already in NSW that force prime contractors and customers to account for fuel when reimbursing sub-contractors.

However, Sheldon’s spokesman says the detractors are missing the point of why the TWU wants a new contract determination introduced.

If passed, the measure will remove the clause forcing companies to front the IRC each time it wants to alter the fuel levy. The spokesman claims this will remove delays in sub-contactors being paid.

It also intends on bringing different sectors under the one banner, in turn removing a number of inconsistencies.

"They are not grappling with the concept of us trying to create one system," the spokesman says.

"We are trying to clean the process up."

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