Vic owner-driver law upheaval wins industry support

Thirty-day payment terms enforced, mandated rates ruled out

Vic owner-driver law upheaval wins industry support
Tim Pallas


The universal support from industry bodies to the proposed Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors (ODFC) Act amendments in Victoria suggests the model may be one to emulate nationwide.  

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA), the Transport Workers Union (TWU), and the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) have sung their praises for the Bill introduced to parliament by Victorian industrial relations minister Tim Pallas.

Detailing the specifics in parliament, one crucial aspect Pallas ruled out was setting mandated rates of pay – instead, "the Act sets out legal requirements relating to the provision of information to assist owner drivers and forestry contractors improve their business skills and better understand their cost structures and contracts".

"Having this information before entering a contract helps contractors assess whether they should accept the rates being offered, and will also allow better informed negotiations," Pallas says.

"Two of the key information requirements are for hirers to provide owner drivers and forestry contractors, with a copy of the applicable rates and costs schedule for their vehicle class and an information booklet, three days before entering into a contract.

"This requirement also applies to tender processes and to freight brokers.

"The rates and costs schedules do not set minimum rates of pay that must be paid. In this respect the status quo has been maintained.

"The rate and costs schedules provide owner drivers, forestry contractors and hirers with information about typical operating costs applying to the kind of vehicle or equipment provided under the contract.

"The rates and costs schedules also provide a base hourly rate that would apply for the driver’s own labour if they worked as an employee.

"The Act requires that ongoing engagements must be in writing, and the contract must specify the minimum level of income or number of hours of work the rates to be paid."

Furthermore, "The Bill amends the contracting requirements of the Act to require the payment of invoices within 30 days of receipt of a correct invoice from the contractor, unless there is a dispute over the amount payable. The parties will also be able to agree on alternative arrangements that are fair to both parties."

The law would be enforced by employment watchdog Wage Inspectorate Victoria with fines of up to $4,000 for noncompliance.

Read more details from the announcement of the amendment, here

The TWU welcomes the proposed changes it says it submitted to the Victorian Inquiry into Labour Hire and Insecure Work, with the review into the ODFC Act also ongoing since 2016, which "will ensure these workers will no longer be vulnerable to exploitation or forced into unsafe practices by economic pressures down supply chains".

"We have been campaigning for a very long time for these changes and they are a big win for road safety, our members and for this Union," TWU Vic/Tas branch secretary John Berger says.

"Currently, dodgy hire companies, competition for work and a lack of regulation mean undercutting is rife and this system only rewards drivers who speed, run red lights, skip fatigue breaks, not maintain vehicles and take drugs to stay awake."

TWU Vic/Tas says it will work with all political parties to ensure the measures pass through state parliament, it adds that the changes are a step in the TWU’s nationwide push to secure Safe Rates across the transport industry.

Meanwhile, VTA CEO Peter Anderson says his association is "totally supportive" of the Bill.

"As a member of the Victorian Transport Industry Council, the VTA is in full support of this very important initiative taken by the government," Anderson says.

"No other state has made this type of commitment to improve the conditions for all owner drivers and ensure that safety is paramount in all contracts, and we commend Minister Pallas and the Government for working with the industry to improve conditions for transport operators and those they employ."

ATA CEO Ben Maguire focuses on the aspect of 30-day payment terms, which he says the ATA is advocating for nationally.

"The introduction of this Bill is welcome news for small trucking business and would require invoices from owner drivers to be paid within 30 days of receipt," he says.

"Small businesses make up 98 per cent of the trucking industry. They are not banks. They cannot afford to extend finance to large customers.

"Mandating 30-day payment terms is a practical measure that would support Australia’s owner drivers and should be extended nationally." 


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