Safe rates consultation extended

Federal Government decides to extend consultation period on safe rates discussion paper due to floods

February 1, 2011

The Federal Government has extended the consultation period for proposed changes to remuneration in the trucking industry due to recent flooding.

Parliamentary Secretary for Workplace Relations Senator Jacinta Collins says the public will now have until February 11 to have its say on the Safe Rates, Safe Roads discussion paper. The deadline was originally January 28.

Saying there is clear evidence linking pay rates to safety, Collins says action is necessary to remove economic incentives for drivers to work unsafely.

"The discussion paper details a number of practical strategies for a national approach to truck drivers’ pay, conditions and safety," Collins says.

"It recommends that a specialist body be created to determine safe pay rates and conditions."

Collins says feedback will help the Federal Government decide how best to improve conditions for truck drivers.

The discussion paper was released after meetings by a hand-picked advisory group that included the Transport Workers Union (TWU), employer associations and trucking companies such as Linfox.

The paper proposes a tribunal system with the power to determine pay rates. It outlines three different models, including expanding the role of Fair Work Australia.

Under this method, the Fair Work Act will be extended to sub-contractors, granting them rights currently enjoyed exclusively by employees.

The Government has also proposed the establishment of an independent authority or a panel system made up of Fair Work Australia and industry representatives.

The Government plans on giving the tribunal the capacity to set different rates for industry sectors and distinct rates based on vehicle configurations and types of trucks.

According to the paper, a safe rate will be the minimum rate necessary for an owner-driver to recover and earn the equivalent of the award wage while driving safe and reasonable hours.

It says pay rates for truck drivers have steadily declined over the last 30 years despite significant growth in the freight task.

The paper cites the work of Professor Michael Quinlan and Lance Wright QC, who found low pay rates encouraged truck drivers to speed and work long hours to make ends meet.

Incentive-based payments such as cents per kilometre rates were also blamed for creating safety problems because they encouraged drivers to work for longer.

"The road transport sector is among the most dangerous industries to work in. The incidence of occupational injury in the industry is one of the highest in Australia…," the paper says.

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