Safe rates advisory panel targets supply chain


Industrial relations lawyer and member of safe rates advisory panel says the supply chain will be targeted on pay rates

Safe rates advisory panel targets supply chain
Safe rates panel goes after supply chain
By Brad Gardner | May 18, 2010

The supply chain will be targeted on the rates it pays trucking operators as part of efforts to ensure drivers receive ‘safe rates’.

Members of the government-appointed Safe Rates Advisory Group want to ensure trucking operators are adequately reimbursed by their clients so they can afford to pay drivers more.

The Rudd Government established the advisory body last year after a National Transport Commission (NTC) study found low pay rates contributed to poor safety because truck drivers were forced to speed or work long hours to make ends meet.

The group has been asked to consider the NTC’s recommendation for changes to pay rates in the context of existing regulations and the push toward uniform transport laws.

Industrial relations lawyer and a member of the 12-person group, Adam Hatcher, says the problem with driver wages stems from the top of the chain.

"The problem is not that most employers are simply ripping off their workers by denying them a fair wage, it is because they themselves can’t recover sufficient money from the person next up the contracting chain," he says.

"It’s not just about payment to employees, it’s about the whole contracting chain so that everyone in the industry up to the clients takes responsibility for the outcomes by paying decent rates of pay at all levels of the chain."

Hatcher says the group, which includes the Victorian Transport Association, the Transport Workers Union, Linfox and Scott’s Transport, has made it "patently clear" the supply chain needs to be part of a safe rates scheme.

"Contracting chains need to be addressed so there is enough money flowing in the system so employers can make a reasonable return on their investment and working drivers are earning a fair and decent wage to support their families and a reasonable standard of living," Hatcher says.

He made the comments at this year’s TWU Federal Council, saying the financial decisions of small trucking operators are dictated by the price set by their customer.

"…he has to work out how he can make a profit out of that and then what’s left can go to his drivers," Hatcher says of trucking operators.

SAFE RATES FOR EMPLOYEES AND OWNER-DRIVERS
During his speech, Hatcher told the Council it was vital owner-drivers and employees were treated equally.

"We can’t consider employees in isolation; we can’t consider owner-drivers in isolation," he says.

"We need to consider those things together so employees and owner-drivers are dealt with in a way which sends out the same signals as to remuneration and hopefully achieves the same outcome in driver safety."

Hatcher’s comments echo those made by VTA Chief Executive Phil Lovel.

He fears "we’ll just root our industry" if ‘safe rates’ are limited to owner-drivers because companies will only use their own fleets.

Hatcher says all aspects of the driving task must also be bound by ‘safe rates’. He says some people are incorrectly trying to limit the issue to long distance driving.

"We know we have major safety problems both in inter-metropolitan driving—that is between major cities that are less than long distance apart—and we have problems within major cities," he says.

"It’s not just about long-distance driving, it’s about all driving. It’s about any driver anywhere who is driving too fast, who’s overloaded, who’s driving too many hours."

The TWU’s push for a minimum wage for truck drivers gathered momentum following the release of an independent inquiry in 2008 into whether pay rates had an effect on safety.

The NTC’s findings were influenced by the work of Professor Michael Quinlan and Lance Wright QC who found a link between remuneration and safety.

They called for government intervention into the marketplace.

A study by a team of academics in the US led by Professor Michael Belzer found the probability of a truck crash fell by 36 percent for every 10 percent increase in wages.


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