OUR SAY: Compromise or be shut out

The debate is over: Safe Rates is coming, and the industry would do well to recognise it

By Brad Gardner

Anyone still doubting if the Rudd Government is intent on restructuring remuneration methods in the trucking industry needs to request a copy of Mark Arbib’s speech to the Safe Rates Summit.

Arbib, the Minister for Employment Participation, could not have been clearer: Safe Rates is coming.

Now that the Fair Work legislation has been implemented, overhauling pay methods in the industry will be given top priority to the point where something may be produced by the end of the year.

And in case the Transport Workers Union (TWU) needed another ally in government to push its case, Arbib is their guy.

Influenced by his time as a TWU official, the Labor powerbroker spoke of his desire to introduce a fixed payment system.

"This is something I have long cared about and been passionate about," he told the packed conference, referring to his time spent with truck drivers and their families.

"We can’t have a payment system that rewards drivers for dangerous practices."

Although some in the industry may dismiss the union’s latest effort as a stunt, critics need to recognise the reality: debate on Safe Rates is over.

The TWU has won; the Government is not changing its position.

Industry groups must now move on to trying to score the best deal for their members, while individual businesses need to be at the negotiating table to ensure Safe Rates does not lead to an increase in red tape.

Those who refuse to compromise and insist on clinging to their anti Safe Rates position risk being shut out of having a say on how a new-look system will work.

The Government will not countenance sniping from the sidelines, and those who refuse to play a constructive role will only harm their own interests or those of the people they represent.

Unfortunately, history isn’t on the industry’s side. As if trying to resuscitate a corpse, some groups refuse to concede despite losing an argument long ago. Just look at the road pricing debate.

And the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) antics last year on the road user charge only strained an already tenuous relationship with the Rudd Government.

But operators like Australian Container Freight Services (ACFS) have the right idea. Managing Director Arthur Tzaneros has moved on from if Safe Rates will be introduced to how it will affect the company’s operations.

After raising his concerns with Arbib during the summit, Tzaneros was told the Government was not interested in crippling operators with more paperwork.

In other words, the Government is willing to work with business and industry representatives, but only those who reciprocate.

Make no mistake, this is a significant reform that will fundamentally alter the trucking landscape. It is something those with a stake in the industry must be a part of.

They can either have a say in the development of a workable system or be left out of the process entirely. The choice is theirs.

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