Boral fends off TWU to introduce new scheme

Boral fights off TWU to introduce new roster system, despite warnings it will create "animosity and tension" among truck drivers

By Brad Gardner

Building and construction company Boral Concrete has won its bid to introduce a new roster system, despite union warnings it will leave drivers worse off.

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission has ruled in favour of a new enterprise agreement permitting Boral to transition from set rosters to a variable scheme over 18 months.

Boral’s Operations Manager, Geoff McDonnell, claims the fixed system is a disadvantage because customer demand is slow from 6am, peaks between 10am and 11am before declining in the afternoon.

He says company is losing work time under the fixed system of 7am to 3pm because truck drivers do nothing for an hour and a half while their truck is loaded.

"Boral Concrete cannot continue to sustain a fixed starting system," McDonnell says

However, the TWU claims drivers may lose up to $200 a week under the new system because the level of overtime work will be reduced.

Under the previous enterprise agreement, drivers rostered to start work at 6am were paid a higher rate because ordinary hours were between 7am and 3:30pm.

TWU delegate and Boral truck driver Greg Masters also claims staggered starts will be hard on drivers, especially those with young families.

"The effect of not knowing what time we start work on any given day until the afternoon before is obvious," he says.

Boral offered a 5 percent wage increase to drivers who began staggered shifts from July 1 to compensate them, but Masters labelled this policy a "bad idea".

According to Masters, the difference in pay scales between those on staggered shifts and those on the fixed system "would lead to animosity and tension" among drivers.

Drivers who moved over to variable rosters on July 1 will also receive another 3 percent wage increase next financial year.

The union also claims some drivers will have to work longer hours due to backed-up work in the afternoon and time spent in peak hour traffic travelling to and from work.

But NSW IRC Deputy President Peter Sams rejected the TWU’s claims.

"It needs to be said that there is an inherent inconsistency in the union’s case when, on the one hand, it complains about a loss of overtime and, on the other, argues the proposal will add more hours to the working day, thereby disrupting personal and family life," he says.

Although sympathising with the TWU’s concern of a loss in pay for drivers, he says "it is not a sustainable position to maintain that an employee’s take home pay should be dependent on regular overtime".

"This must be particularly so in an industry where the vagaries of demand and the ‘peaks and troughs’ of the industry are a common characteristic," Sams says.

Referring to staggered work schemes used by other companies in the industry, Sams says the fixed system means Boral has less flexibility than its competitors.

He also says that the claim of drivers losing $200 a week is "inconclusive and speculative" because there no way to prove it.

Upon granting the new agreement, Sams ordered it to be reviewed after six months.

The previous agreement expired February 23, but negotiations between Boral and TWU on a replacement reached a deadlock.

Prior to Sams’ ruling, the NSW IRC held conferences with both parties in an unsuccessful attempt to break the impasse.

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