'Safe Rates' must cut red tape, Sheldon says

Union boss says fixed wages system must be simple, but warns employers and industry groups against trying to gain concessions

'Safe Rates' must cut red tape, Sheldon says
'Safe Rates' must cut red tape, Sheldon says
By Brad Gardner

The trucking union is expecting action on ‘Safe Rates’ before next year, but says the scheme must not increase red tape or grant concessions to business.

Speaking after the Safe Rates Summit in Sydney yesterday, Transport Workers Union (TWU) boss Tony Sheldon says there is "a real growing momentum across the industry" for fixed wages.

He claims the pledge from Minister for Employment Participation Mark Arbib to push the issue to the forefront of the Rudd Government’s agenda indicates action will be taken by the end of 2009.

The union heavyweight says the Government must, "Make it simple, make it straight forward and make it fair", adding that restructuring pay rates can reduce the industry’s administrative burden.

"What this regulation also has the opportunity to do is bring all the various pieces of legislation, progressively, under one umbrella," he says.

But while the TWU gained the full support of companies such as Linfox and Star Track Express, Sheldon has warned there will still be groups attempting to use any consultation with the Government to dilute a minimum rates system.

He claims there are individual companies out there exploiting drivers and will still try to avoid taking responsibility for safety, and has urged the Government to implement a "robust" scheme that forces change in the industry.

"They [company owners] might blindly still go off to their weekend religious services, say a few ‘Hail Mary’s’ when they do their confession and then go back on the Monday and drive a system that is literally killing people on our roads and maiming our loved ones," Sheldon says.

The Safe Rates Summit yesterday brought together influential figures from industry, government and union circles to continue the push for change in the trucking industry.

Former New South Wales premier Bob Carr chaired the event, which was held ahead of the ALP’s national conference.

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) was the only industry representative group to make a presentation to attendees.

VTA Chief Executive Phil Lovel used the occasion to urge greater action from government on more than just pay rates.

Lovel says rest areas and issues such as unpaid waiting times must be addressed alongside remuneration methods, and his comments gained the support of the TWU.

"There was a very good presentation from the Victorian Transport Association, and they (sic) rightly said Safe Rates is an important aspect but a whole mosaic of issues must be dealt with," Sheldon says.

Professor Michael Quinlan, whose report last year cited a link between safety and pay, also attended the summit to reiterate his findings.

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