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Coalition and industry unite to oppose Bluecard provision

Industry groups and the Opposition rally to defeat government proposal to expand union power and introduce the Bluecard nationally

By Brad Gardner

The trucking industry and the Opposition are rallying to defeat a government push to increase the Transport Workers Union’s power amid fears operators will be strangled in red tape.

Representative group NatRoad has managed to gain the Coalition’s support to vote against an amendment in the Fair Work Bill to impose union-approved safety schemes and allow the TWU access to trucking yards at will.

NatRoad Deputy Chief Executive Duncan Bremner says the organisation is now lobbying Family First’s Steve Fielding and Independent Nick Xenophon to oppose the amendment, which seeks to extend the provisions of the NSW Mutual Responsibility for Road Safety Award to all jurisdictions.

The Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) warns the Government risks duplicating operators’ administrative burden if it pushes ahead with what it describes as an attempt to pander to the TWU.

“Existing and occupational health and safety road laws ensure there are extensive obligations on all parties across the freight and logistics chain, including truck drivers, to provide for safe workplaces in the road transport industry,” the ARTIO’s NSW branch secretary Hugh McMaster says.

Under the Award, employers must enrol their staff in a Bluecard safety program, commit to ‘safe driving plans’ and introduce new drug and alcohol policies even if similar systems are already in place.

All costs are borne by the employer, who can also be subjected to raids on documents and driving plans within 24 hours notice from union delegates.

Jill Lewis from the NSW branch of the Australian Trucking Association says the NSW Award also includes its own fatigue management provisions, despite the fact national regulations were introduced on September 28 last year.

The office of opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss says the increase in red tape has the potential to be “very damaging”.

A spokesman claims the provisions may also pave the way for zealous union members to “take part in energetic recruitment” because they will not be restricted to union-affiliated businesses.

The Rudd Government needs the support of Fielding or Xenophon and the Greens to pass the Bill.

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