The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has revealed the Fair Work Commission will gain the power to issue mandatory orders across the road transport contract chain, with Parliament passing the federal government’s closing loopholes bill.
Under the bill, the commission will be able to issue road transport contractual chain orders, which will apply to businesses up and down the chain.
Following extensive discussions with the ATA and other industry bodies, a contractual chain order will be able to include terms about payment times, fuel levies, rate reviews, termination and cost recovery.
ATA chair David Smith says the ATA had worked hard and co-operatively with the federal government to ensure the commission’s new powers were workable and fair.
“We were not able to achieve our goal of restricting the commission from setting minimum rates. That argument will now need to be put to the commission as it considers applications for orders,” Smith says.
“But we were able to secure legislation that will work and that could deliver better contract terms for owner drivers and trucking businesses.
“The commission will be required to have regard to the need to avoid adverse impacts on the sustainability, performance and competitiveness of supply chains and the national economy.
“In looking at road transport contractual chain orders, it will also need to have regard to the commercial realities of the road transport industry, including commercial practices in relation to part load, mixed load, no load, multi-leg and return trips.”
Smith says the bill will require a 12-month notice of intent period for any proposed order. There will be failsafe mechanisms including internal merits review and new rights for the minister or another party to seek a review of an order if significant new facts or evidence come to light.
“Contractual chain orders are intended to ensure that all parties are covered. We cannot afford a situation where some businesses regulated by the commission lose work to businesses that are not,” Smith says.
“Importantly, we were able to ensure that the commission will not become another safety regulator. The commission will not be able to make orders covering matters comprehensively dealt with under the Heavy Vehicle National Law or other relevant laws.
“It’s now time for the trucking industry, the TWU and our customers to work together to consider the sort of orders that are needed to protect trucking businesses and owner drivers without halting innovation or making it impossible to operate.
“The bill requires the commission to engage genuinely with the industry. If a proposed order is good for industry, it will not be opposed by affected operators.”
Smith says the commission will gain its new powers six months after the bill is signed by the Governor-General.