Driver gives word from the cabin on protest

By: Brad Gardner, Photography by: Brad Gardner


Mills explains his position during convoy protest against minimum rates scheme

Driver gives word from the cabin on protest
Not without a fight: Owner-driver Johnno Mills is trying to stop the RSRT introducing mandatory minimum rates for owner-drivers.

 

He had just arrived home from a long trip the day before, but that wasn’t going to stop Gold Coast-based Johnno Mills from joining a protest against minimum rates for owner-drivers on March 20.

Mills fired up his Sterling early that morning and headed north to join other owner-drivers who had assembled at Berrinba, south of Brisbane.

Like Mills, they all had one thing on their mind: how to prevent the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) from introducing hourly and kilometre pay rates for owner-drivers on April 4.

While the RSRT is introducing the scheme with the intent of improving the viability and safety of owner-drivers, some feel the plan will have the opposite effect.

Like other owner-drivers across the country, Mills is concerned his business will not survive if minimum rates are brought in.

He currently earns more than what the RSRT is due to mandate as a minimum and is "very worried" that will encourage clients to drop his rate as result. As long as they pay him the minimum then they are legally compliant.

"I’ve got my own freight, I’ve got three young kids, I’m stressing out, I’m worried about the future," he says.

Mills recently purchased a new $100,000 trailer for his prime mover, adding to the trailer he purchased three years ago. He does not know if he will still be able to make his repayments under a minimum rates scheme.

"Worse comes to worse, I’m going to send the government a tax invoice and make them pay out all my gear, plus the GST  — and that’ll happen when hell freezes over."

Mills believes the RSRT should look at the entire trucking industry if it wants to go down the path of setting minimum rates.

"It’s go to be right across the board. If they’re going to implement it, it has got to be right across the board. No arguments," he says.

"You can’t pick on us little blokes. We’re not copping it, no way."

But Mills is also philosophically opposed to the RSRT’s plan, questioning why it should be allowed to determine a rate he works for.

"I’m fortunate enough that all of my work is over and above what the calculated rate is. I’d like to think I comply there, but who is going to dictate to me what I work for? That’s between my wife and my kids and myself. I only have to answer to them," he says.

"I just can’t believe that I’ve been in the industry for 30 years and someone’s dictating to me what I can and can’t do."

Along with attending the protest convoy, Mills has submitted in writing his concerns to the RSRT.

The tribunal last week sought submissions from the trucking industry on varying minimum rates, specifically delaying their introduction until January 1 next year and phasing them in over a 36-month period.

"I’ve done everything. I’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s and hopefully they will listen to us and some common sense will prevail," Mills says.

 

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