It's action time: Sheldon backs 'safe rates' group

TWU boss backs announcement of 'safe rates' advisory group and outlines desired policy for new pay system

It's action time: Sheldon backs 'safe rates' group
It's action time: Sheldon backs 'safe rates' group
By Brad Gardner | December 16, 2009

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has backed the announcement of an advisory body to deliver ‘safe rates’ and has outlined the path it wants the group to take.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon says he looks forward to working with the group and the Rudd Government on introducing a system to reduce the economic pressure on truck drivers.

Sheldon wants a dispute resolution process put in place so drivers can recover costs from operators and clients.

"If petrol prices go up, a driver should not be forced into unsafe practices to cover those costs. The same can be said for waiting times and the maintenance of trucks," he says.

"Report after report has shown that the economic pressures put on truck drivers forces unsafe work practices, and in our industry that often means death," Sheldon says.

The group is holding its first meeting in Melbourne today and will work on a policy paper expected to be completed by mid-2010.

"This paper will form the basis of a wider consultation process in mid-2010 and will include an opportunity for wider industry and public feedback as well as consultation with the states and territories," Gillard says.

"Australia’s truck drivers work hard and they shouldn’t have to risk dying or being injured just to make a living."

As revealed by ATN yesterday, the group includes Linfox, the Victorian Transport Association, Scott’s Transport, the Queensland Trucking Association and Bluescope Steel.

TWU representatives and fatigue expert Professor Anne Williamson have also been given membership.

The industry’s peak representative group, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), is not a member.

It argues the matter is an industrial relations issue, which is outside the scope of the ATA’s role.

The group previously opposed ‘safe rates’, with ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn saying it is "a false argument" to think setting rates will deliver benefits as opposed to fatigue management and greater enforcement measures.

"Our submission argues that a ‘safe rates’ regime will not improve or resolve the behavioural and operational issues which need to be addressed if improved safety outcomes are to be achieved," Martyn said after the ATA released its submission to an inquiry into remuneration methods in the industry.

The inquiry was conducted by Professor Michael Quinlan and Lance Wright QC and recommended a radical shake-up of the market.

The authors advocated a new body set up under federal transport legislation with the ability to fix rates for employed drivers and owner-drivers.

"This is the only viable and direct mechanism for addressing the imbalance in bargaining power confronting owner-drivers that affects safety in the road freight industry," the report states.

A tribunal made up of industry, industrial relations and safety experts will then decide industry rates by sector and enforce misconduct, including under existing chain of responsibility laws.

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