RSRT hits back at opponents for 'creating confusion'

Tribunal uses decision report to point finger at the FWO, NatRoad and critics

RSRT hits back at opponents for 'creating confusion'
RSRT takes swipe at the FWO, NatRoad and critics.


In dismissing a delay of the 2016 RSRO, the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal has taken aim at its critics through its decision report today, particularly targeting the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) and NatRoad industrial relations manager Arthur Spottiswood.

As parts of its decision to not vary the April 4 start date for the RSRO, the RSRT has blasted opponent organisations for "creating uncertainty and confusion."

"It is disappointing that affected persons could not rely on the Fair Work Ombudsman and scandalous that some bodies and persons have sought to create uncertainty and confusion by actions or omissions," the RSRT’s decision report says.

However, the RSRT says it is still up to individuals affected by the Order to know what’s happening.

"Those bound by the 2016 RSRO, who are the same persons bound by the 2014 RSRO, are still directly bound to take all necessary action to ensure they can meet their obligations under the 2016 RSRO by its commencement date of 4 April 2016."

On the FWO, the report suggests that while the body should be educating, assisting and providing advice to road transport drivers, it instead "consider[ed] that ‘crowd sourcing’ was an appropriate method of developing their legal advice."

 The decision report says:

The Fair Work Ombudsman, for example, placed… questions on its website and invited "feedback and input from all interested industry participants", telling them to "[h]elp us shape our position!", asking them "[w]hat do you think?" and seeking that they tell the Fair Work Ombudsman "how you think this works in the real world".

The RSRT went further stating the FWO "kept changing its advice on the application of the 2016 RSRO."

The National Road Transport Association was also in the sights of the RSRT, with the tribunal suggesting the body didn’t act in its member’s interest.

"NatRoad holds itself out as providing 'Unlimited Industrial Relations Advice' and 'Legal Advice'," the RSRT says.

"Notwithstanding this, and despite having questions from their members about the 2016 RSRO and despite NatRoad’s Industrial Relations Manager not being legally qualified, NatRoad has never obtained any legal advice on the 2016 RSRO so as to assist their members with respect to their questions about the 2016 RSRO."

The decision takes a particular swipe at the industrial relations manager for NatRoad Arthur Spottiswood on the body’s claim to provide legal advice.

Under the questioning from senior deputy president Lea Drake, the report says Spottiswood conceded NatRoad didn’t receive legal advice on the Order, rather it handed the questions to the Ombudsman.

Spottiswood says advice is often provided by "third parties on particular issues".

The report also took Spottiswood to task over a press release by NatRoad in February, in which NatRoad said it was frustrated at the lack of answers from the RSRT.

The RSRT says "Mr Spottiswood conceded under cross-examination and in a question from Senior Deputy President Drake that he was an experienced industrial relations practitioner and was well aware that to expect any member of any tribunal to answer questions about a decision that the tribunal has made would be improper, and that the President was correct in refusing to answer such questions."

The RSRT also says that Spottiswood promoted an online petition regarding the RSRO to his members, which he knew was wrong:

The petition had been started by Daniel Cozzolino, the General Manager for Metro Freight Lines Pty. Ltd. (Metro Freight). Metro Freight is a medium sized transport company which engages some contractor drivers to whom the 2016 RSRO applies.

The online petition stated that the 2016 RSRO would price truck owner drivers "30+% above the current industry rates". Although Mr Spottiswood had written a press release on 11 February 2016 which indicated the increases in the 2016 RSRO were lower than that, he promoted the petition to NatRoad’s members.

The RSRT has also taken a swipe at those suggesting the online calculator published on the RSRT website in March added to confusion and the need for delays.

"The online calculator is not part of the 2016 RSRO and it has never been suggested it is," the RSRT says.

"The online calculator does no more than provide in electronic form an outcome which is otherwise achieved by reading the 2016 RSRO."


NatRoad responds

NatRoad has responded to the RSRT, saying its decision "will potentially bankrupt thousands of Australian owner drivers".

In a statement, NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says the tribunal didn’t listen.

"The decision comes despite more than 800 submissions and three days of hearings over Easter when hirers and owner drivers, summonsed under threat of 6 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," he 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’.

"To all those owner drivers and small and medium transport operators, whether members of NatRoad or otherwise, we will continue to fight for your businesses and against the injustices perpetrated by the Order."



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