VTA supports safe rates tribunal

New tribunal is not union heavy, says VTA, which adds it is "reasonably pleased" with make-up of membership

July 4, 2012

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) says it is "reasonably pleased" with the make-up of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, highlighting the appointment of two industry identities as a positive.

The tribunal, which will have the power to set pay rates and conditions for truck drivers, began operating on July 1 as part of the Federal Government’s response to findings that low rates of pay encourage unsafe practices in the trucking industry.

The tribunal of eight includes four appointees from Fair Work Australia, truck owner Tim Squires and industrial relations specialist Paul Ryan from the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO).

"The VTA has used Paul Ryan for over 15 years in an advisory role covering Awards, EBAs [enterprise bargaining agreements] and sub-contractor issues. Paul’s industry experience will be of great benefit to the tribunal," VTA Executive Director Philip Lovel says.

"Tim Squires is a real live road transport operator and is nobody’s fool. He knows how hard it is to make a living complying with government legislation and [to] live with the demands of the customer in a competitive environment."

Only one member of the eight-person tribunal, ex-senator Steve Hutchins, has links to the Transport Workers Union (TWU) as its former national president.

"We are reasonably pleased with the make-up of the panel. You cannot say it is TWU orientated, it has a varying degree of industry experience," Lovel says.

The remaining appointment is Professor Ann Williamson, who has been heavily involved in the debates on fatigue and remuneration in the trucking industry.

Lovel says the tribunal should start by researching a number of issues in the freight and logistics industry, such as safety issues, the number of sub-contractors, what safety systems are not working and what areas of the sector are under stress.

He has also pledged to work constructively with the tribunal.

"Contrary to some industry associations and companies, we are not concerned about the tribunal. We will work with the tribunal to make our industry more profitable and safer," Lovel says.

Squires and Ryan were part of a government-appointed group that advised the Federal Government on how it should respond to the National Transport Commission’s 2008 study linking low rates of pay to poor safety.

During the TWU’s Safe Rates Summit in Canberra last year, Squires talked up the need for those wanting to enter the trucking industry to go through an accreditation process.

He believes prospective operators should be able to demonstrate they have enough skill to run their business, maintain their vehicles and comply with government regulations such as fatigue management.

The tribunal will have the power to mandate conditions across the supply chain, including ordering parties to pay drivers for waiting times. It can issue industry-wide and sector-specific rulings based on the results of investigations into industry practices.

The Fair Work Ombudsman will be responsible for enforcing the tribunal’s orders. The tribunal will also be able to hear disputes between drivers and their bosses, independent contractors and prime contractors, and trucking operators and their clients.

However, its dispute resolution powers will not take effect until January 1, 2013.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten says the six-month delay is necessary to give the tribunal time to establish itself and consider areas of the industry it needs to look at. He says the delay will also give the trucking industry time to come to grips with the tribunal.

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