NSW operators face 'complexity' under new award system

NSW trucking operators will need to factor in greater administrative costs under the modern awards system, ARTIO says

By Brad Gardner | July 6, 2010

NSW trucking operators will need to factor in greater administrative costs under the modern awards system, an industrial relations firm says.

Hugh McMaster from the NSW branch of the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation says operators using the NSW Transport Industry (State) Award face "additional complexity" under the new system introduced on July 1.

Operators using the Award will need to apply transitional rates each year for five years to bring the higher NSW wages into line with other jurisdictions.

An 80 percent transitional rate applied from July 1 and will fall to 60 percent in July next year, 40 percent in 2012, 20 percent in 2013 and zero on July 1, 2014.

However, employees may apply to Fair Work Australia for take home pay orders to ensure their wages are maintained at the current level.

"It presents extra challenges," McMaster says of the new system.

"I think it will certainly be administratively costly."

Companies currently using enterprise agreements are not bound by the changes, but McMaster says there is no reason for operators to automatically assume they will be better under an agreement than an award.

"It depends on the nature of the transport operation," he says, adding that members have contacted him for help on the changes.

The three modern awards replaced around 120 existing awards.

The Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award applies to long haul, while the Road Transport and Distribution Award covers most employees in the trucking industry. The Transport (Cash in Transit) Award was also introduced on July 1.

Under the transitional arrangements, operators will need to work out how much to pay an employee by matching the classification grades from the State Award to the grades listed in the new awards.

For instance, a driver of four-axle rigid vehicles falls into grade 4 of the State Award compared to grade 3 of the Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award.

"To calculate an employee’s transitional wage rate, employers need to first identify the employee’s pre-modern award and modern award classifications," the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland says.

ARTIO’s national industrial relations advisor, Paul Ryan, says the group has applied to the Fair Work Ombudsman for funding to educate the industry on the changes.

The group has already ran sessions and issued information bulletins on industrial relations changes such as the introduction of the Fair Work Act.

Ryan expects to find out later this month if ARTIO’s request has been successful.

Prior to the introduction of the new awards, federal Liberal Senator Eric Abetz claimed new companies set up from July 1 could exploit transitional provisions because take home pay orders would not apply to them.

"If I were a new entrant into the field on 1 July, I could pay all my brand new employees in my brand new business at the level of the new modern award and, therefore, undercut the competition," he says.

The modern awards were due to come into effect on January 1 this year but businesses were given a six-month reprieve to learn their obligations under the new system.

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