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Closing Loopholes Bill passes Senate

Closing Loopholes Bill

After an almost two and a half year long process starting with a government inquiry and featuring numerous convoys and industry-wide calls for reform, the Closing Loopholes Bill has fully passed the Senate.

There were several amendments that had to be made to the Bill, which had its major parts passed in December.

The Transport Workers Union was at the forefront of the renewed push to see the key legislation passed, leading a record procession to Canberra in August. The delegation comprised of industry associations, transport operators, small fleet owners, owner drivers, and ‘gig-work’ companies and employees.

This was followed by a “united front” in November, with convoys coming together across the country to push against delays to voting on the Bill.

“Everyone that’s been involved in this and on the convoy on the weekend wanted to make the point to the federal opposition that if you’re not in support of this you need to get out of the way,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said at the time.

With the continued support of Senators Glenn Sterle and Tony Sheldon, the final piece of the puzzle was put into place with a vigil held on Parliament House in early February.

Industry delegates then proceeded to give briefings to Parliament, which now appear to have been crucial in ultimately seeing the Bill pass the Senate.

“The passing of this bill is a watershed moment for the transport industry which has united to push for regulation to enforce safer, fairer and more sustainable standards,” Kaine says.

“This reform will save lives, will quell the threat of exploitative gig competition, and will make transport businesses more viable.

“When this reform comes into effect, gig economy workers will gain rights and protections that cannot be evaded by words in a contract or a classification label.

“This is a sophisticated, world first solution to a global industrial crisis. Australia is leading the way to eradicating century-old exploitation that resurfaced under the guise of newfangled tech.”

The now-passed Bill will grant new powers to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to ensure fair contracts and conditions for all transport workers, including ‘employee-like’ workers, aka gig workers.

This focus on gig workers was a key part of the process to pass the reform, with the TWU partnering with the likes of Uber, DoorDash and Menulog and receiving their support on the legislation.

Transport Education Audit Compliance Health Organisation (TEACHO) was one of the many industry organisations that supports the changes to make the ‘gig economy’ fairer and more standardised for its workers.

“This legislation has been years in the making but will have a lasting impact for years upon years to come,” TEACHO chair Paul Ryan says.

“Decades of evidence has shown minimum standards will make transport safer, fairer and more sustainable. Standards can take exploitation out of the gig economy.

“Now the hard work begins to use this legislation to its full potential.”

The recently passed Bill will also allow the FWC to set minimum standards for contracts for road transport workers and give workers the right to challenge unfair contractual terms.

Challenging unfair terms will take into consideration the bargaining power between parties, whether the services laid out in a contract are imbalanced between the parties and whether the remuneration terms are considered fair across comparable jobs.

Australia Road Transport Industrial Organisation secretary Peter Anderson says that the Bill will put more power into the hands of gig workers.

“This legislation will bring positive change to our industry. It is a triumph of our unity that this reform has now passed.

“Unlikely allies came together over the shared goal to make transport fair, sustainable and viable.

“Most significantly, this legislation will give us the necessary protections to stave off exploitative gig competition that threatened to take down traditional transport operators.

“If the industry remains united, the future is bright for the transport industry.”

National Road Freighters Association vice-president Glyn Castanelli says that owner drivers also stand to massively benefit.

“This is a fantastic outcome and a great step towards lifting standards for truck drivers just trying to get the job done.

“Minimum standards will give owner drivers at the bottom of the food chain the ability to negotiate fair and sustainable work.

“This has the potential to be life-saving and life-changing for transport families across the country.”

Perhaps one of the most important parts of the bill is the FWC having the power to guarantee minimum standards across all the transport industry.

Keeping work viable and not letting costs blow out across the supply chain is one of the key ways to keep the industry sustainable, says NatRoad CEO Warren Clark.

“We all want a safe and sustainable transport industry. We can’t and shouldn’t keep losing operators to insolvency.

“This legislation must be sensibly implemented to help make transport more viable, boost productivity and support the economy.

“My members and I will be working diligently to drive those outcomes but we can’t do it alone.

“The entire industry and governments must work together to establish standards that will enable road transport to thrive.”

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