Union goes after supply chain in RSRT submissions

TWU proposal wants supply chain to pay driver training levy and meet new obligations under transport contracts

Union goes after supply chain in RSRT submissions
Union goes after supply chain in RSRT submissions
By Brad Gardner | March 7, 2013

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is pushing for a suite of new measures to be imposed on the trucking industry’s customers, including forcing them to pay a training levy and meet extra responsibilities under transport contracts.

The TWU has lodged two proposed road safety remuneration orders covering the retail and long distance sectors (intrastate and interstate trips exceeding 500km) with the the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) in a move that targets the top of the supply chain.

The orders, which the TWU wants to run for four years starting on July 1 this year, will require customers to pay transport operators enough so drivers are covered for time spent waiting in queues and loading and unloading rigs.

Customers will be liable for monitoring and enforcing safe driving plans, ensuring operators have drug and alcohol policies in place and paying a levy to bankroll training, education and research initiatives aimed at the trucking industry.

"We’re not dedicated to the ambition that the transport operator pays for it. We think the transport operator pays for enough. We think that the customer should [pay]," TWU Assistant National Secretary Michael Kaine says.

The TWU wants the RSRT to determine the amount customers should pay and for a group comprising employer and employee representative organisations, contract drivers and the Fair Work Ombudsman to oversee how the revenue is spent.

Kaine says transport operators hauling goods for retailers, such as Toll and Linfox, already have safe driving plans in place. But under the union’s proposal, customers will be liable for making sure they are not breached.

"The unique part about this, of course, is that although it will be an employer or a hirer that creates the plan, the primary obligation for ensuring that a safe driving plan [is followed]…will lie with the customer," he says.

Kaine says the clause means clients will not longer be able "to turn a blind eye to instances of work that isn’t planned well".

He says the TWU will immediately go after customers if it discovers a safety plan has been breached.

The likes of Coles and Woolworths will be responsible for covering the financial cost a transport operator incurs while developing and implementing a safe driving plan.

"They [transport operators] will have to prepare a safe driving plan but they will be able to recoup the cost of that, on our order, from the retailer under their contract," Kaine says.

He says the orders, particularly for the retail sector, aim to change the culture of contract negotiations so driver safety and remuneration is front and centre as opposed to customers using their power to dictate terms and prices.

"The key for us is that for too long major industry customers like Coles have been able to get away with dictating commercial terms in the transport industry, which has affected the safety of drivers and ultimately has led to injury and death," Kaine says.

"The Gillard government put this tribunal in place and the tribunal has the power to stop that supply chain bullying and we think that this order, if made, will go a long way to making positive change."

The orders specify terms and conditions for owner-drivers, including a requirement they be paid within 14 days of doing work.

Owner-drivers will also receive allowances for supplying trailers, ropes and gear, twistlocks and rear or rear-sideloading devices.

Transport operators will be responsible for paying it, but they will be able to go back to the customer to recoup the cost.

"The idea would be that the transport operator would be able to go to the client and say, ‘these are rates I have to pay, you have to pay me more to get it done’. In fact, there will be an obligation," Kaine says.

"If for some reason the owner-driver wasn’t paid or was underpaid on those rates, then that owner-driver would have the right to go straight to the customer for payment if they couldn’t get it off the transport operator."

The orders contain lists of minimum rates the TWU thinks owner-drivers should receive for metropolitan and regional work.

The metropolitan rates range from $47.42 per hour for a rigid vehicle capable of carrying two tonnes, up to $91.98 per hour for a bogie-axle prime mover.

The regional rates include the option of hourly payments or per kilometre rate, and Kaine says the amounts factor in all of the costs an owner-driver incurs.

He says the TWU looked at contractor rates in New South Wales and Western Australia, surveyed members and then brought in consultants to develop the payments.

He adds that the TWU looked to NSW and Western Australia because both states have already done a lot of work on developing appropriate contractor payments.

"This will be a pretty important breakthrough for owner-drivers if we can [get the orders passed]," Kaine says.

"We might have the rate wrong, it might be too low in places and we’ll deal with that. But the concept of them actually having it there and of course combined with the 14-day requirement for payment is going to be a giant step forward for owner-drivers."

Kaine says employee drivers, too, are likely to get better take-home pay because many are currently not paid for waiting time.

"It won’t be by virtue of us applying for higher rates, it will be by virtue of an order that says people should be paid for the work they do," he says.

"I think the community would be appalled if they knew the amount of unpaid work that drivers do and the safety implications of it."

The TWU’s proposed orders require all parties in the supply chain to prepare records of safe driving plans, contracts, trip schedules, driver rosters, and risk assessments and retain them for six years.

The union is pressing to have access to records of any company operating in a supply chain that has TWU members in it.

"We would say that we have an entitlement to because whether or not we had a member at a particular enterprise, we almost in all circumstances have a member in the supply chain," Kaine says.

"And we say…if you have substandard arrangements in the supply chain, then you are affecting ultimately the safety and the job security of all workers in that supply chain.

"We say it directly affects our members even if we don’t have a member at particular operation."

Under the union’s plan, truck drivers will have to attend training courses on occupational health and safety within three months of beginning work unless they have received prior training.

The TWU says drivers must be paid while attending training and then must carry a document certifying they have completed the relevant course.

Customers will also have an obligation to make sure a transport operator it uses has in place drug and alcohol policies within six months of the TWU’s order taking effect.

The union says the policies must treat drug use as a health problem, with an emphasis on education and rehabilitation.

"Road transport drivers who voluntarily disclose professional use of artificial stimulants or a personal drug or alcohol use problem shall not be subject to disciplinary action but shall be provided with counseling, training, and if necessary, treatment and rehabilitation," the TWU order says.

"Employers and hirers shall develop their drug and alcohol policies in consultation with road transport drivers and the TWU (where road transport drivers are members of the TWU)."

The Federal Government established the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) last year as a means of ensuring truck drivers and operators received enough remuneration to work safely.

The tribunal has the power to issue road safety remuneration orders, which can mandate minimum rates and conditions that all parties or individual sectors in the supply chain must abide by.

The tribunal is the result of a National Transport Commission (NTC) report pointing to a link between low rates of pay and poor safety in the trucking industry.

The TWU says it wants orders covering retail and long distance operations because both sectors interact. Kaine says targeting retail delivers "the best bang for the buck" because of the market dominance of Woolworths and Coles and that about 30 percent of the transport task is focused on retail deliveries.

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