Drivers aren't 'second class citizens': TWU

Union shuts down Sydney CBD to rally support for 'safe rates' and accuses transport clients of jeopardising driver safety

By Michael House | November 10, 2009

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) brought traffic in Sydney to a standstill today to pressure the Rudd Government to introduce ‘safe rates’.

About 80 union members blocked an intersection on George Street waving placards in support of a scheme to fix minimum rates in the trucking industry.

The TWU says 287 people have died since a National Transport Commission (NTC) report was handed to the Rudd Government last year calling for the abolishment of incentive-based payments such as the cents per km rate.

"Truck drivers should not be forced by client economic pressure to work unsafe hours or drive to unsafe driving plans in order to make a living," TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon says.

"We need a system of payments where a driver can receive full cost recovery, including paid waiting times and rising fuel costs."

Police were called in to break up the protest, and a spokeswoman says union members moved on peacefully.

The Rudd Government has previously pledged to overhaul payment methods but has not made a decision on when the changes will be introduced.

The TWU wants action by the end of the year, while industry groups such as the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) have questioned the effectiveness of fixing a minimum rate.

SARTA Chief Executive Steve Shearer is calling for a tribunal to be established similar to ones in Victoria and Western Australia whereby a board rules on pay disputes between sub-contractors and contractors.

Unlike a flat rate proposed by the TWU, rates will be decided on a case-by-case basis under SARTA’s model.

A spokesperson for Minister for Industrial Relations Julia Gillard has previously said the Government has been forced to evaluate a fixed rates scheme in light of industrial relations changes such as the Fair Work Act and new transport awards.

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