Owner-drivers get go-ahead to collectively negotiate

Owner-drivers granted authorisation to collectively negotiate but TWU vows to block the move

Owner-drivers get go-ahead to collectively negotiate
Owner-drivers granted authorisation to collectively negotiate
By Michael House

Queensland-based owner-drivers offering earthmoving services have been given the power to collectively bargain but the trucking union will push for the decision to be overturned.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has agreed to a request from the powerful Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy (CFMEU) union to allow it to help tipper truck drivers choosing to collectively bargain with earthmoving contractors.

The CFMEU is limited in what it can do, with the ACCC choosing to restrict it from actively bargaining on an owner-driver's behalf. Furthermore, the ACCC says the process will be voluntary, with contractors and owner-drivers given the choice to opt out.

The competition watchdog decided against a proposal from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) to oppose the move, arguing it is in the best interests of the industry.

"The ACCC is satisfied that the proposed collective negotiations will result in a public benefit by enabling participating owner-drivers to potentially have greater input into terms and conditions than would be the case if they were to deal individually with earthmoving contractors," ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel says.

But the move has sparked a heated from the TWU, with the organisation promising to "be up for a fight". In a written submission to the ACCC, the TWU argued the move "would inevitably lead to unrest and demarcation disputes between the unions" and create "an unstable industrial landscape" over owner-driver coverage.

TWU Branch Secretary Hughie Williams tells ATN he will be mounting an appeal to the ACCC and will get through "this battle".

"Even if [approval has been granted] by the ACC, it has been met with great opposition (and) we will be mounting an appeal to the ACC shortly," Williams says.

"We will be resisting this at all costs."

Williams says many tip truck drivers who are currently signed up to the TWU have expressed their disappointment over the decision and his organisation has no fears of losing existing members.

He has dismissed claims the TWU the decision will result in an exodus of members and says the CFMEU's actions have not been welcomed.

"Tip truck drivers have phoned us up and have expressed their disappointment and have pledged to work with us," Williams says.

"Our members aren’t just going to walk away from us and join another union."

The Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) recommended against allowing owner-drivers to collectively bargain, saying the option should only be open to employees.

As well as rejecting the argument, the ACCC says the decision will not have an adverse effect on competition.

"The ACCC considers that the associated public detriment is limited because participation in the collective negotiations is voluntary, given the absence of any collective boycott conduct and the current small size of the group," Samuel says.

"To ensure that the collective bargaining arrangements continue to be genuinely voluntary for earthmoving contractors, the ACCC has required the CFMEU Queensland to regularly inform the ACCC of, among other things, the number of participating owner drivers."

Samuel says this will help monitor the size of the bargaining group to determine if there needs to be a review into the impact of the decision.

A spokesperson for the CFMEU was not available for comment.

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