Nice one, Julia, now give us safe rates: TWU

TWU wastes no time pushing for action from the new federal government, calling for the release of safe rates paper

By Brad Gardner | September 8, 2010

The Transport Workers Union has wasted no time pushing for action from the new federal government by calling for the release of a paper on reforming pay rates in the trucking industry.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday formed government after gaining the required 76 of 150 seats in the House of Representatives. Independents Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie joined Green Adam Bandt in supporting Gillard.

Prior to the election, Gillard was due to release a paper from the Safe Rates Advisory Group outlining recommendations to reform pay rates.

The National Transport Commission in 2008 recommended government intervention in the marketplace on the basis truck drivers lacked the ability to negotiate a sustainable rate. It also criticised incentive payments such as the cents-per-kilometre rate.

"Prime Minister Julia Gillard has endorsed a system of safe rates for truck drivers prior to the election, and now the election is gone it would be expected that we would see an advisory committee report," TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon says.

"Earlier this year, the PM said that she would put out an options paper on safe rates and we look forward to that discussion. Tony Windsor has backed safe rates in the past, and we will be talking to other cross-benches to ensure this piece of urgent legislation is passed."

The NSW branch of the TWU expected the paper to be released on July 12, but the Government declined to specify a date.

Once released, the paper will be open to six weeks of discussion to give the trucking industry the opportunity to respond to the recommendations.

The TWU wants a tribunal established to rule on what constitutes a ‘safe rate’ on a case-by-case basis.

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 a 2008 study on pay rates, Professor Michael Quinlan and Lance Wright QC, criticised those who deny a connection between low pay and poor safety outcomes.

They say critics 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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