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More groups link as minimum payments revolt widens

ALRTA, NFF and COSBOA join action to force remuneration order delay or ditching


Mobilisation against the Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 has stepped up another gear with the Australian Livestock and Livestock Transporters Association (ALRTA), National Farmers Federation (NFF) and the Council of Small Business Associations (COSBOA) joining the fray together.

It is another example of freight transport bodies finding common-cause strength beyond the industry, following NatRoad’s earlier linkage with Ai Group, which saw them join the fray again this week.

ALRTA national president Kevin Keenan said that the 2016 Order should be stayed indefinitely, or at the very least delayed for six months so that businesses have time to understand and adjust to the new requirements. 

“There is no doubt that the 2016 Order is the most significant regulatory change in decades to impact on owner drivers and all business that rely on their services,” Keenan says.

“The imposition of minimum rates from 4 April 2016 will immediately price many owner drivers out of the market.

“They will lose their regular contracts and find it much harder to pick up small jobs. 

“These businesses need more time to work out what the Order means for them, and if necessary, exit the industry with some dignity and a chance of avoiding financial ruin.

“So many elements of the Order remain unexplained, including who is covered and how to charge for part loads or loads with multiple hirers. 

“Despite our efforts, these questions remain unanswered with less than 1 month now remaining until the Order commences. 

“Until last week, parties negotiating new transport contracts couldn’t even access the online rates calculator.”

According to the NFF, most farmers using professional transport services remain unaware of the existence of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal or its 2014 or 2016 Orders.

“Farmers are likely to be significantly affected by these Orders when using contracted transport services,” NFF president Brent Finlay says. 

“We are very concerned that there has been no serious attempt by either the Tribunal or the Fair Work Ombudsman to understand the needs of rural and regional Australia or to provide clear information about what these significant new obligations mean.”

The NFF is concerned about the consequences beyond the freight transport industry of the rates rise.

“From 4 April 2016, new minimum rates for owner drivers will drive up freight rates for smaller consignments of livestock or other rural commodities by as much as 350 per cent,” Finlay says.

“The only way to avoid these costs is to use larger transport companies with employee drivers. 

“This means less choice, less flexibility and huge flow on effects for small rural businesses around the country.”

COSBOA casts the issue as one of skewed equity and values, where a law “deliberately places smaller companies at a competitive disadvantage”.

“The minimum rates will apply to owner drivers but larger competitors using employee drivers will remain free to set their own rates,” COSBOA CEO Peter Strong says.

“Small businesses are already at the mercy of their larger competitors. 

“Larger transport businesses have economies of scale and a return on capital investment that single truck owner drivers can only dream of. 

“I am flabbergasted that a government tribunal could discriminate so blatantly against small businesses that just want a fair go.”

“This Tribunal is clearly seeking to extend the reach of unions and industrial relations laws into independent contracting businesses where they have no place. 

“The laws appear to be designed to force a structural shift towards larger fleets and a unionised workforce.”

“The current state of play is a sure recipe for a regulatory and economic disaster.”

ALRTA, NFF and COSBOA have also jointly called for clear advice about the effect of the 2016 Order to be provided without delay by the RSRT or Fair Work Ombudsman.

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