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O’Connor’s RSRT statements raise ire of ALRTA

Keenan castigates push to resurrect Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal


Brendan O’Connor’s second statement in support of reviving the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) in six months has hit stony ground at the Australian Livestock and Road Transport Association (ALRTA).

O’Connor, the shadow workplace relations minister, backed the move just before Christmas, saying the RSRT’s abolition had allowed exploitation of 10 per cent of truck drivers, pointing to a Macquarie University study to bolster the case.

The study showed one in ten truck drivers work over 80 hours a week and 42 per cent of owner drivers said the reason they do not report safety breaches is because of fear of losing their jobs, he noted

Late last month, The Weekend Australian quoted him saying he was “open to options”, given there is “significant support from employers and by the unions to reassert the principles of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to reduce fatalities of truck drivers and the general driving public because of fatigue”.

Labor has explained its stance to ALRTA previously, backing the tribunal while acknowledging deficiencies in its remuneration orders.

ALRTA says Labor is already talking with the TWU about whether to set it up as a stand-alone body or as a division within the Fair Work Commission.

Its national president, Kevin Keenan, says the operation and decisions of the former RSRT “had threatened the livelihoods of owner drivers and it could not be revived in its previous form without similar consequences”.

“The RSRT mandated minimum rates for owner drivers that did not apply to companies using employee drivers,” Keenan says. 

“In many cases, owner-drivers immediately became uncompetitive and suffered significant income loss.

“We also cannot forget that the RSRT compelled ‘mum and dad’ owner drivers to give evidence during an Easter holiday period in a court-like environment under the threat of imprisonment.  

“The RSRT then ignored their testimony, along with over 800 written submissions, and allowed the anti-competitive rates to come into force.

“During the RSRT hearings, it was readily apparent that unions and big transport companies were behind the push to impose mandatory minimum rates on smaller owner drivers.  Why? Because this would drive owner-drivers out of the market and into a unionised workforce.

“Once again, it seems that Labor is asking the unions and big employers to design an industrial system for owner drivers with whom they compete. 

“If the ALP is resigned to reinstating the RSRT, then the most important groups to consult with should be the very entities that will be regulated — owner-drivers. 

“If mandatory minimum rates were a good thing then owner-drivers would be the first to support it.

“ALRTA membership comprises more than 70 per cent owner drivers and we will make our own approach to the ALP to express our view on this critical issue.”


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