Safe rates paper by July 12, union says

Federal Government won't commit to release date of safe rates discussion paper, but TWU claims it will be released on July 12

By Brad Gardner | July 9, 2010

Trucking operators might know as soon as next week how the Federal Government intends to overhaul remuneration methods in the transport industry.

While the office of Industrial Relations Minister Simon Crean is remaining tight-lipped on the release of the Safe Rates: Safe Roads report, the Transport Workers Union says it will be published on July 12.

The paper is designed to outline how the Government intends on implementing the findings of a 2008 study that found a link between safety and low rates of pay and recommended government intervention to ensure drivers and operators are adequately reimbursed.

"The Government is planning to release the discussion paper in the near future," a spokesperson for Crean says.

In a letter to TWU NSW members, State Secretary Wayne Forno says the paper "will be released on Monday July 12th, with six weeks of consultation to follow".

"By the end of next month, the government will have the advice and feedback it needs to put together Safe Rates legislation before parliament," Forno writes.

The spokesperson for Crean did not respond to the question of if the Government will implement ‘safe rates’ before the next election but did confirm there will be a six-week consultation period.

"Once this consultation process has concluded, the submissions received will be carefully considered before a decision can be made about ways of addressing the safe rates issue," the spokesperson for Crean says.

The TWU wants a tribunal established to rule on what constitutes an appropriate rate. It says such a system is necessary because many drivers and operators are forced to cut vehicle maintenance and work excessive hours due to financial pressures from customers.

The Australian Trucking Association will oppose the ‘safe rates’ on the basis there is no demonstrable link between safety and pay rates.

A study by a team of academics in the US led by Professor Michael Belzer found the probability of a truck crash fell by 36 percent for every 10 percent increase in wages.

The authors of the 2008 study, Professor Michael Quinlan and Lance Wright QC, criticised those who deny a connection, saying they provide "little if any research or credible evidence to discount or provide alternative explanations to research indicating that such connection exists.

Occupational health and safety expert Professor Ann Williams says there is "very good evidence of a link between driver payment, remuneration and safety outcomes".

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