MP jumps on 'safe rates' bandwagon

<font color=red><b>SAFE RATES:</b></font> Independent MP backs mandatory rates, blasts companies using subbies as "storage facilities"

MP jumps on 'safe rates' bandwagon
MP jumps on 'safe rates' bandwagon
By Brad Gardner | September 22, 2009

New England Independent MP Tony Windsor wants fixed pay rates introduced in the trucking industry and says big-name companies must stop taking advantage of drivers.

The farmer-turned-politician has criticised some companies over their treatment of owner-drivers, while also pledging support for the Transport Workers Union’s (TWU) ‘safe rates’ campaign.

Windsor says companies continue to issue stringent deadlines for drivers to meet but then treat them as "storage facilities" by making them wait for lengthy periods before allowing them to unload their trucks.

"Some of the bigger players can’t have it both ways," he says.

Windsor claims a fixed rate will improve the safety of drivers because they will not be pushed to drive excessive hours just to make a living.

A report into pay rates in the trucking sector last year found owner-drivers lacked enough negotiating power to secure a sustainable pay rate, while competition and incentive payments drove down remuneration.

"Safety issues are paramount, particularly where drivers are pushed to their limits," Windsor says.

His comments come after the TWU’s latest effort to gain political support for an end to the cents-per-kilometre system.

Owner-driver and union member Frank Black drove his truck from Brisbane through regional New South Wales and finally to Canberra, visiting politicians on the way.

The union says it met council representatives in regions such as Grafton, Tamworth, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga to argue its case for change.

A spokesman for the TWU says owner-drivers and employee drivers also met more than 40 politicians in Canberra to help the union pressure the Rudd Government to work with it and "responsible employers" on ‘safe rates’.

Industry groups such as the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) have previously said it does not make sense to replace the kilometre rate.

SARTA Chief Executive Steve Shearer says a trip rate is usually based on someone travelling 75km/h, meaning it pays better than an hourly rate because drivers usually travel at higher speeds, especially on highways.

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