Push to introduce Bluecard nationally

Controversial NSW Award that allows unfettered union access to trucking yards may go national

Push to introduce Bluecard nationally
Push to introduce Bluecard nationally
By Brad Gardner

The controversial NSW Award that allows unfettered union access to trucking yards may go national.

The Rudd Government wants to introduce the Mutual Responsibility for Road Safety (State) Award in all jurisdictions as part of the Fair Work Bill.

If passed, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) will have the power to enter a workplace within 24 hours notice even if the company involved is not union affiliated.

Union delegates will be free to inspect driving records and order companies to provide documents as far back as six years.

Furthermore, the Award forces employees to complete a safety awareness program to obtain a Bluecard, with the company responsible for paying all costs.

Industry group NatRoad, which is lobbying the Government to amend the Bill, fears trucking operators will be forced into compulsory unionism and beset by an "administrative nightmare".

"Employers will be forced to enrol their employees into the union in order to avoid the burden of union inspections and compliance with the Award," NatRoad Chief Executive Bernie Belacic says.

In a briefing paper to the Government, Belacic raises concerns that operators will not be able to comply with the Award because of the "complicated and onerous" obligations.

"The NSW Award duplicates and extends existing requirements under fatigue and driving hours and occupational health and safety legislation," Belacic says.

The Government is also being told it risks making the road a more dangerous place if it imposes the NSW model nationwide.

"The Award specifically prohibits employers from taking disciplinary action in response to drug or alcohol abuse," Belacic says.

Under the Award, employers must invest in counselling, treatment or rehabilitation but cannot take disciplinary action.

Driver remuneration must also be publicly released under the guise of a 'safe driving plan', which NatRoad opposes on privacy grounds.

The Award applies to heavy vehicle operators involved in long distance work of more than 500km in any one shift.

The Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) claims the provisions allowing the TWU to inspect records is merely aimed at improving union access.

QTA Chief Executive Peter Garske says the Bill will inflict even more red tape on the industry at a time when businesses should be given help to improve productivity and efficiency.

The group plans on lobbying the Government to scrap the clause in the Bill and says there is no evidence the Award has delivered any safety outcomes since being introduced in 2005.

The TWU in the past has been accused of receiving kickbacks from the Bluecard because the business responsible for conducting mandatory safety training pays the union a share of the proceeds from each card sold.

Labelling the practice anti-competitive, NatRoad says the industrial instrument is "a legal mechanism to feather the nest of the Transport Workers Union".

The Coalition is refusing to back the Fair Work Bill but the Government has introduced amendments to gain the necessary support of the Greens, Family First's Steve Fielding and Indepedent Nick Xenophon to get it past the Senate.

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