Industry condemns RSRT’s ‘devastating’ decision

By: Anjali Behl


Transport bodies accuse the Tribunal of overlooking the impact of the order on small business operators

Industry condemns RSRT’s ‘devastating’ decision
“The current order puts the viability of over 40,000 small business operators at risk," ATA CEO Christopher Melham says.

 

Industry bodies have hit back at the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) for its decision to not delay the commencement date of the minimum rates order.

The Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 (RSRO) will be in effect from Monday.

The verdict came as a shock to many members of the transport industry who were expecting the Tribunal to, at the very least, delay the implementation date to October this year if not accept all the suggestions put forth during the submissions period.

Speaking to ATN, ATA CEO Christopher Melham says the decision carried the risk of driving thousands of small business operators and owner-drivers out of business.

"The decision will have a devastating impact on the industry.

"The ATA’s motto is viability, professionalism and viability; viability of the transport industry and viability of the operators.

"The current order puts the viability of over 40,000 small business operators at risk.

"ATA is not prepared to sit and allow this to happen considering the massive impact to the entire road transport industry.

Melham says the ATA will participate in official consultations with the Department of Employment and other stakeholders to review the issue of mandatory rates for contractor drivers.

"The consultations will proceed through the month of April and ATA will urge the decision makers to come up with a solution by the end of the month. Time is of the essence," Melham says.

NatRoad says the Tribunal has failed to acknowledge the impact that this Order will have on people’s livelihoods and potentially drive thousands of Australian owner drivers towards bankruptcy.

"The decision comes despite more than 800 submissions and three days of hearings over Easter when hirers and owner drivers, summonsed under threat of six months imprisonment to give evidence, told the Tribunal that the Order spelled ruin for their small businesses, loss of their homes and devastation of rural communities," NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says.

"Rather than pay heed to vast numbers of submissions criticising the ambiguities in the Order and the catastrophic and unfair consequences of imposing a two tiered rate system on the transport industry, the Tribunal has sought to blame industry associations and the Fair Work Ombudsman for any uncertainty and confusion.

"Although hundreds of owner drivers wrote to the Tribunal to indicate that their businesses, livelihoods and family homes were in jeopardy, the Tribunal concludes that it is ‘unconvinced on the material before us that the work currently performed by the contractor drivers to whom the 2016 RSRO applies will be lost to others, including ‘fleet operators’, once the 2016 RSRO commences’.

NatRoad says it will continue its campaign against the unfair effect of the order.

The South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) is calling on the government to abolish the RSRT owing to its incorrect approach to road safety.

"In an extraordinary move, after hearings completed on Monday 28th and the RSRT Bench had indicated on transcript that it had already read all of the submissions lodged by Industry, the Tribunal has waited until 2.30pm on Friday to hand down its decision rejecting any changes to its original Order," SARTA’s executive director Steve Shearer says.

"This will immediately consign many thousands of small mum and dad contractor businesses to the scrap heap, stripping away their rights to continue to run safe and viable businesses as they have done for decades.

"That this decision has been left to the last moment, late on a Friday, is an outrage and many will see it as a sign of contempt for the industry.

"The harm to thousands of small contractor businesses in the coming weeks will be irreversible if the banks move in and repossess trucks and homes as they grab what assets they can to safeguard the bank's bottom line.

"We urge the banks to show some humanity and wait and see if we are able to turn this outrage around."

The Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) has also condemned the Tribunal for disregarding operators’ submissions before taking the "outrageous decision".

"The Tribunal has decided that owner drivers have no place in the road transport industry and should be regulated out of existence," ALRTA national president Kevin Keenan says.

"This comes in the face of wide spread confusion about the Order and compelling examples of how the Order will ruin businesses.
 
"The Tribunal has hauled witnesses in over the Easter period under the threat of imprisonment and then totally disregarded their statements and the 800 submissions in support of a delay".
 
"How on earth the Tribunal could have found that ‘there is now significant support for the 2016 RSRO’ defies belief".
 
"This Tribunal is meant to improve fairness and safety.  The anti-competitive nature of the order is not fair. 

 By their own reasoning, the Tribunal should know that placing additional financial pressure on owner drivers is not safe".
 
"Affected owner drivers and hirers have every right to be furious at this decision and rally to make their views known to the Federal Parliament. 

"The ALRTA and our state associations will continue this fight to the bitter end," Keenan says.    

With the simultaneous announcement of the RSRT verdict and the official reports reviewing the Tribunal and the Road Safety Remuneration Act 2012, the Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association (LBCA) says it is "a declaration of war".

The LBCA says it will review the Tribunal’s "Delphic pronouncement" before making further comments.

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