TWU sticks to its script on safe rates reasoning

By: Rob McKay

Union lets pass accusations of ‘intended consequences’ of RSRO

TWU sticks to its script on safe rates reasoning
The TWU says it is looking for accountability in the industry


The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is keeping on-message in the face of strong opposition from significant elements within the road transport industry the ‘safe rates’ Road Safety Remuneration Order (RSRO).

Despite public, online, social media and private commentary questioning its motives, it is resolute in insisting that the RSRO will do the job it was set to do.

That resolution extends to skipping past particular points ATN put to the union.

Asked research the union did on the likely impact of a sudden huge hike in costs of using owner-driver on transport company contracting behaviour, it stuck to those guns aimed at large retailers.

"We have presented research to the [Road Safety Remuneration] Tribunal of the financial pressure drivers are put under currently because of the squeeze by wealthy retailers at the top of the supply chain through low cost contracts," the union says.

"We have also presented evidence of the link between this financial pressure and the road fatalities.

"In addition we presented academic research and coronial findings demonstrating what happens."

One charge with resonance among industry observers at many levels was the RSRT was always a TWU plan to price owner-drivers out of business, forcing them to become employees and therefore TWU members.

The union rejected the accusation entirely.

"Our push for an Order at the RSRT on safe rates was firstly about making our roads safer and secondly about making our industry more sustainable," it says.

"The Order addresses these issues by tackling client pressure on drivers which result in deadly symptoms such as: fatigue; the use of stimulants to combat fatigue; speeding; log book manipulation; speed limiter tampering; abandoning or short-cutting maintenance.

"Our industry is neither safe nor sustainable with these pressures continuing and we have always said our campaign is about tackling the source of these pressures.

"Someone has to pay for the abuse of market power from wealthy retails and the tragedy is that at the moment hundreds of Australians each year do pay – with their lives."

On mortality, it’s response to the issue of suicide in the industry can be found here.

ATN made an effort to gauge whether there was any underlying theme or philosophy driving the direction TWU hoped the RSRT would take the industry.

Given the logic of smaller players being forced out is a strengthening of larger transport firms the union was asked if it believed the industry is unsustainably fragmented and in need of consolidation in the face of a huge concentration of customer power.

This would appear to be a mistaken assumption. 

"There is a need for an industry-wide solution to the problem of lack of accountability of those at the top of the transport supply chain," the union says.

"The first Order from the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal setting safe minimum rates for drivers has started the ball rolling, covering owner drivers in retail and long-distance.

"We are filing applications to the Tribunal which centre on the determination of drivers to have a fair and safe rate across the industry.

"These applications include:

  • a demand for auditing of transport operators to hold clients to account over payment of the correct rates and allowances for employee drivers and to ensure illegal, exploited and untrained drivers are not employed in the supply chain
  • a demand that transport contracts be scrutinised to ensure they allow for all costs to be covered in carrying out deliveries, including maintenance of trucks, fuel, drivers’ wages, third party insurance, workers’ compensation and other minimum legal requirements.
  • a demand for major retailers to pay transport operators within 30 days of work completed.

"Separately we are fighting for safe and fair rates across the industry and have application for Orders in cash-in-transit; oil-fuel & gas; waste; and ports and wharves.

Drivers who have worked for many years want to see this happen so that professionalism can be maintained and safety never compromised.

It quotes Charles McKay [no relation], a cash-in-transit employee, as says there was a need for accountability among clients so that drivers and the public are not put at risk.

 "This is about safety and people’s lives," McKay says.

"Profits just can’t trump that."

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