TWU pushes for more action on safe rates

TWU to push for safe rates legislation at next week's Federal Council meeting, with Julia Gillard in attendance

TWU pushes for more action on safe rates
TWU pushes for more action on safe rates
By Brad Gardner

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) will use next week's Federal Council meeting to push for greater action on safe rates, including introducing a voluntary code of conduct.

TWU Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon is aiming to gain a commitment from Minister for Industrial Relations Julia Gillard on overhauling heavy vehicle pay rates when she attends the annual event next week.

"We are still striving to get the [Rudd] Government to introduce legislation this year," Sheldon tells ATN.

The Council, which brings together all branches of the TWU, will also be putting pressure on businesses to take a proactive approach.

Sheldon wants companies to agree to a Safe Rates Code, which will contain provisions requiring safe driving plans, sufficient pay rates and driver educational programs.

The Federal Council will also vote on whether to inject more funds into its Safe Rates campaign as it continues to lobby politicians to back a new system of pay for truck drivers.

In his review of heavy vehicle safety released in November last year, Professor Michael Quinlan recommended pay rates be altered on the basis that they play a key role in determining safety.

Some trucking groups argue the introduction of chain of responsibility legislation has been the best defense against low-paying transport customers, but Sheldon claims the laws have been ineffective and haven't seen major clients prosecuted.

"It is absolutely frustrating not to see major retailers prosecuted," he says.

According to Sheldon, big-name clients are ultimately responsible for safety in the trucking industry because they use their economic clout to drive down pay rates, in turn forcing drivers to break road laws.

He says it is more vital than ever for governments to take immediate action on safe rates in light of the worldwide economic downturn.

There is an over-supply of drivers due to businesses failing, Sheldon says, and major clients will now have even more power to dictate pay levels.

Industry groups, however, question the effectiveness of altering the payment system, claiming it will not solve the problem of drivers who willingly flout road laws regardless of how much they are paid.

Some are also concerned businesses will not be able to afford to pay higher rates and have also questioned how a ‘safe rate’ can be determined.

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