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NatRoad call to put brakes on Award increase

Clark deems ACTU demand ‘unrealistic’ but Kaine backs increase


The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) is rejecting Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) calls for a 3.5 per cent increase across all awards rates, which it claims is crucial for post-pandemic economic recovery.

Instead, NatRoad CEO Warren Clark seeks “cool heads and realism” in the push for a higher minimum wage.

He says the ACTU claim amounts to a rise of $30.24 per week for a local driver of a single articulated vehicle and $31.57 per week for a local driver of a B-double, which places too high a burden on small businesses while the economy is still in a post-Covid recovery phase.

“NatRoad believes now is not the time to make an ambit claim of this size,” Clark says.

“Last year the ACTU sought a 4 per cent increase, but the Fair Work Commission’s [FWC’s] minimum wage panel settled on 1.75 per cent in recognition of the effects of the pandemic.

“Those effects are still being felt and uncertainty remains, so cool heads and realism must prevail.

“That may not sound a lot but when the vast majority of heavy vehicle operators are small businesses operating on a profit margin of 3 per cent, it can break someone.

“NatRoad supports the federal government’s submission in urging the FWC to take a cautious approach given the current uncertainties in the domestic and international economic outlook.”

How NatRoad hailed the passing of casual law reform, here

Though not putting an exact figure on an acceptable increase, Clark says keeping small business viable is “not negotiable” right now and the minimum wage increase should be discounted to take into account the rise in the superannuation guarantee from 9.5 per cent to 10 per cent that is due from July 1, 2021.

The FWC’s minimum wage panel decided that due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and government efforts to prevent the spread of the virus there were exceptional circumstances to justify deferring the wage increases in certain industries, NatRoad notes.

As a result, the 1.75 per cent increase to the minimum rates in the two road transport awards and the clerks award were delayed to November 1, 2020.

“The role of heavy vehicle operators as an essential industry has not changed,” Clark says.

“Small operators transport 60 percent of all road freight and they’re still keeping Australia moving.”

NatRoad is at odds with the Transport Workers’ Union, which supports the ACTU push for a 3.5 per cent increase for workers on Awards, including drivers.

“This is a fair increase given the effort drivers have put in over the past year and given the ballooning profits of retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top of the supply chain,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine says. 

“Drivers have proved themselves during the pandemic to be essential workers, willing to risk their own health and lives to keep goods flowing around Australia.

“They overcame last minute border closures, confusing state entry permits, closed truck stops and continual COVID tests to keep doing their jobs.

“At the same time many of the companies whose goods they are transporting have seen their profits soar.

“Global and domestic retailers have boomed during the pandemic: Aldi Australia grew its sales in 2020 by 10 per cent to $10.5 billion; Amazon last week announced profits up 224 per cent to $US8 billion; Apple said its profits have more than doubled to US$23.6 billion.

“We don’t think it’s right that drivers should work long hours and yet struggle to support their families and put food on the table as all other costs go up.

“We don’t think it’s right that drivers are pushed to speed, skip their rest breaks and drive faulty trucks while obscene profits are being made by the companies whose goods they are carting.”

TWU’s statement comes on the back of writing to retailers operating in Australia noting it will be serving a claim in the coming weeks demanding fairness and equity in transport.

“The TWU has a plan of action to lift standards right across the transport industry, for drivers and operators alike, while pushing for the wealthy clients at the top with the power and money to be held to account. 

“We would urge all transport industry bodies to join the associations, operators and clients who are already on board with us in our push for better standards.”

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