Industry groups and union face off on minimum rates delay

TWU on the offensive after RSRT receives application bids for remuneration order launch stays

Industry groups and union face off on minimum rates delay
Innes Willox wants more time for the industry to digest meaning of changes.


Battle lines have been further defined between industry and freight transport bodies and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) following a bid to delay the minimum rates remuneration order.

The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) issued a road safety remuneration order (RSRO) for contractor payments in the supermarket and linehaul supply chains in December but it will hear next week applications to vary the date.

Vociferous opponent NatRoad backs an Ai Group bid for a delay.

"The Australian Industry Group [Ai Group] has today moved to delay the implementation of a Road Safety Remuneration Order which is causing widespread concern and confusion in the road transport industry and the community," Ai Group CEO Innes Willox says.

"The application is supported by the National Road Transport Association [NatRoad] whose members have expressed alarm at the impacts of the Order."

Ai Group says its application aims to "protect the community from widespread job losses, damage to businesses and harm to rural and regional areas".

Willox cites community concern "about the adverse effects of the Order, and confusion about what the Order requires".

The application seeks to postpone the start date to January 1 and to have in place transitional arrangements to phrase-in the new rates, which, in many instances will be far higher than presently exist.

"Clearly, it is in the interests of all parties for the operative date in the Order to be pushed back and for the new minimum rates to be phased-in," Willox says.

"Pushing the operative date back will allow more time for the Order to be understood, and for appropriate changes to be made to systems and processes.

"It would also allow more time for the Fair Work Ombudsman and industry groups to develop information resources and tools to assist businesses to comply with the Order."

The Ai Group's submission adds that "a large number" of owner-drivers are likely to lose work come April 4, unless the RSRT’s varies its plans.

"The Current Notice Period is manifestly insufficient and inadequate and thereby does not have regard to the need to avoid unnecessary losses of jobs and work for contractor drivers in the road transport industry," the submission states.

"…delaying the commencement date will reduce the number of jobs that are lost and the amount of work that is lost by contractor drivers because there will be more time for hirers to renegotiate contracts and rates with customers."

The submission says the notice provided to industry about minimum rates has been "manifestly insufficient and inadequate", particularly given the RSRT made its announcement during the Christmas/New Year period.

Furthermore, the Ai Group is critical of the tribunal for releasing an online calculator to determine rates only one month out from the scheme’s commencement.

It says hirers do not have enough time to implement appropriate administrative arrangements to pay owner-drivers in accordance with the RSRT’s requirements.

The submission goes on to claim that the lack of time given to industry runs the risk of encouraging non-compliance.

Other elements have sought a delay already and the Australian Long Distance Owner Drivers Association (ALDODA) and the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) have delay applications in, but both groups’ opinions differ on how long for.

ALDODA wants October 3 as the start date, but the NRFA says there should be an indefinite delay until all affected parties properly understand their obligations.

Having sparred with the Ai Group and NatRoad several times already, the TWU was quick to respond.

"This ruling addresses deaths in truck crashes and will make the industry safe and sustainable. It beggars belief that Ai Group and NatRoad would want to stand in the way of this ruling," TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says.

The union is also planning to gather in Canberra to raise the issue of truck safety with politicians.

"Both Ai Group and NatRoad have failed to explain why there is a problem with this order when higher rates already exist under New South Wales laws and in other agreements," Sheldon says.

"It is clear what is at play here: wealthy retailers at the top fear their profits may get hit by this order, but profits must never be put before people’s lives."

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