Shearer offers stout defence of ATA over TWU

By: Rob McKay

SARTA boss insists union effectively ditched the association years ago

Shearer offers stout defence of ATA over TWU
Steve Shearer


South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) executive director Steve Shearer has defended the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) after its withdrawal of the Transport Worker’s Union’s (TWU) membership.

A trenchant critic of the union’s present approach on industry matters, Shearer reiterates his critique of its posture on safety matters and describes its refusal to accept its loss of membership, which the ATA put down to a refusal to pay its membership dues since 2017, as "absurd and grossly misleading".  

"I have sat at the ATA council table for 25 years, something no other industry or TWU rep can claim to be even close to. So I am well placed to comment on the TWU’s past membership of the ATA," Shearer says.

"As I have said publicly a number of times in the past couple of years, the TWU has been negligently and shamefully absent from the ATA council table for years, by its own volition."

"I have been highly critical for some years of the TWU for its abject failure to engage at the ATA council on the very safety issues that it like to beat its chest about as if it’s the paragon of virtue and the sole bastion of safety for our industry."

Read the reasoning for the TWU’s loss of ATA membership, here

Shearer identifies the decline in the union’s interest in having a united industry front as starting under its immediately previous leadership.

"The ATA has long been the best and broadest forum for the discussion of safety issues within the industry, which is precisely why a former TWU national secretary, John Allan, had the foresight and commitment to have the TWU join the ATA and he worked hard, consistently and tirelessly with the ATA in a constructive, and at times very robust, manner, achieving a great deal," he says.

"I was particularly critical, publicly, of the short-sighted adversarial approach adopted by the immediate past TWU national secretary, Tony Sheldon, who was more interested in grandstanding and pandering to the masses than he was ever interested in achieving actual tangible safety gains on key through continuing the great work of John Allan who truly put the TWU members first.

"I called upon Tony Sheldon and the TWU to get serious and come back to the ATA Table, whilst they were still members, because they had failed to attend well over 90 per cent of ATA Council meetings.

"Clearly, Tony and his team thought that they didn't need the ATA and that after the May 2019 Election they would have the upper hand ... well that didn't work out for them did it?

"So the facts are very clear, contrary to the ridiculous claims now being made by the TWU. They have not been attending meetings of the ATA Council for years, they have not contributed to the ATA discussions, debates and work at all, let alone constructively, for years.

"In short the TWU, under the direction of Tony Sheldon and more recently of Michael Kaine, has shown complete disrespect for the ATA, the industry and workers and scant regard for making any effort, let alone genuine effort, to work constructively with the industry in the best interests of its members and the industry that it claims to represent.

"Oh and they have not paid their membership fees for years, despite numerous reminders and clear advice of the ultimate consequences."

Shearer insists that whilst ATA members are entitled to their view and to pursue their objectives, the TWU’s ongoing attacks on the ATA are intolerable.

Meanwhile, the ATA has confirmed that the role of the TWU’s nominated representative on the ATA general council, Klaus Pinkas, has ended.

That of Frank Black, who was elected to his place amongst voting councillors, is unchanged.

"Frank Black’s position as owner-driver representative on the ATA council is not affected by the TWU’s decision not to pay its membership fees," ATA chief of staff Bill McKinley tells ATN.

"The ATA election regulations require candidates to be a member of an ATA member association at the time of nomination only."

The ATA is awaiting the Victorian Transport Association's (VTA's) nomination for a new representative following changes to its leadership.

The next ATA council meeting, the first since the TWU was withdrawn, is on November 20 and agenda item are to be sent out next week.


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