Remuneration tribunal gains two work program submissions

As deadline looms for interested parties to influence Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s work program, those backing intervention in industry get first say in consultation process


The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s (RSRT) first annual work program has attracted just two submissions a week before deadline, the organisation has confirmed.

So far, high-profile freight transport academic Professor Michael Quinlan and the Long Haul Drivers Association (LHDA) have put their views to the tribunal, with closure for such offerings due next Tuesday.

Quinlan was first to reply to the call for views on what it should tackle first off, pointing to concerns about retail supply chain pressures, "particularly the supermarket sector".

"The overwhelming weight of evidence I have collected over the years as part of inquiries I undertook or research pointed to the critical influence of clients/shippers at the top of supply chains/subcontracting networks in terms of dictating transport contracts and, through this, payment and other working conditions of drivers," Quinlan, of the School of Organisation and Management at the
University of New South Wales,

This was because the buying and contracting power of major retailers "has the capacity to determine the conditions under which the transport task occurs to a degree probably not matched by any other subsector".

His view had been informed by research he had conducted for the NSW Government in 2000 and with Lance Wright QC for the National Transport Commission for a 2008 report on the link between remuneration systems and safety.

"Further, most if not all the problems I identified in the inquiries I conducted were evident in this subsector," Quinlan writes.

"It was also my impression that multi-tiered subcontracting was more extensive in this subsector (up to six or seven steps between the initial contract and the actual driver delivering the goods) which resulted in greater likelihood that drivers would receive a less than sustainable level remuneration or be under acute scheduling etc pressure (for which effectively there was no remedy and which presented a major logistical challenge to those responsible for enforcing labour standards)."

Quinlan believes some issues, such as unpaid waiting times, might be relatively easily resolved by the tribunal.

Unpaid work was one of several issues LHDA President Brian Turpie wants it to tackle.

His submission also addresses the low barriers to entry into the industry to ill-equipped and under-capitalised operators operating on an ad-hoc basis.

This had led to "the major transport fleets and their customers have used this to prop up their bottom line and improve profit at the expense of those in the industry trying to do the right thing", he writes in a detailed but edited submission.

Describing the Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award 2010 as flawed, Turpie calls for the tribunal to focus on "unpaid hours and artificially low kilometre and basic pay rates".

"The road transport industry has always been hamstrung by its inability to charge freight at its true cost and historically this is because there is no mechanism to ensure that competitors aren’t able to use unfair or illegal work practices to compete for freight customers," he writes.

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