Trucking operators face 3.4 percent wage increase

Trucking operators employing drivers under the modern award system will need to increase wages by 3.4 percent from July

Trucking operators face 3.4 percent wage increase
Trucking operators face 3.4 percent wage increase
By Brad Gardner | June 3, 2011

Trucking operators employing drivers under the modern award system will need to increase wages by 3.4 percent from July 1.

Fair Work Australia today handed down its minimum wage decision, which also includes a $19.40 increase for the country’s lowest paid workers.

The 3.4 percent increase will apply to trucking operators employing staff under the Road Transport and Distribution Award and the Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award.

The increase will coincide with a 2.4 percent jump in heavy vehicle registration fees and the diesel excise.

Despite calls from business groups for Fair Work to act cautiously, the industrial umpire lifted the national minimum weekly wage for award and agreement-free workers to $589.30 or $15.51 per hour.

Justice Geoffrey Giudice says positive economic conditions warranted the decision, citing growing labour productivity and forecast strong GDP growth over the next two years.

"In the circumstances a significant increase is appropriate which will improve the real value award wages and assist the living standards of the low paid," he says.

"Weekly wages will be rounded to the nearest 10 cents. The increase will flow through to junior employees, employees to whom training arrangements apply, employees with disability and to piece rates."

The union movement wanted a $28 wage increase across the board, while the Australian Industry Group fought to keep it to $14.

Ai Group CEO Heather Ridout claims many businesses, such as manufacturers, are struggling with higher interest rates and a surging Australian dollar.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry wanted the increase kept to $9.50 in the wake of Fair Work Australia’s 2010 decision to raise it by $26 a week.

Casual loading rates under the modern award system have not been touched. Fair Work Australia did, however, lift the loading to 22 percent for award and agreement-free employees.

Fair Work Australia also rejected a push from business groups for transitional assistance for businesses affected by recent natural disasters, such as the severe flooding in Queensland earlier this year.

Giudice says he cannot grant a deferral because there is no mechanism to identify the employers affected.

"There is an unacceptable risk of significant unfairness to employers and employees if the deferral mechanism does not effectively target the group in need," he says.

"We are also conscious that a deferral of a wage increase would place some of the burden of adjustment on the lowest paid in the community, who might themselves be in a difficult financial position because of the effects of natural disasters on themselves and their families."

Giudice also rejected a deferral because government is already providing assistance to flood-affected businesses and that economic activity is poised to grow on the back of reconstruction efforts.

Upon launching the push for a $28 increase last year, ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the union was attempting to bridge the gap between wages and rising household living costs.

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