‘I’m not a sham contractor’: Reliance Transport boss speaks out

By: Brad Gardner


Reliance Transport has defended itself after coming under attack from the TWU for underpaying an owner-driver.

‘I’m not a sham contractor’: Reliance Transport boss speaks out
Reliance Transport believed it owed Steve Georges about $11,000, but the TWU demanded $24,800 in back-pay for the owner-driver.

 

The owner of a trucking company at the centre of union allegations of being a "sham contractor" has hit back at his accusers.   

Reliance Transport owner Grant Mace has defended his company after it ran afoul of the New South Wales Transport Workers Union (TWU) for underpaying owner-driver Steve Georges.

He did not receive his correct rate and was subsequently back-paid $24,800 after the union intervened.  

Reliance Transport sub-contracts to Toll, and the underpayment occurred while Georges was hauling freight out of Toll IPEC’s Moorebank yard.  

The enterprise agreement Toll struck with the TWU mandates that all sub-contractors at Toll sites must receive the same rate of pay as Toll employees – a practice known as site rates. Georges was paid less. 

After Mace rectified the underpayment, the TWU called his firm "a sham contractor ripping off truckies in western Sydney" and claimed it was intentionally profiting at the expense of the owner-driver. 

"Despite being paid the site rate by Toll, Reliance told Steve Georges the rate was much lower. Instead of passing the correct rate on, Reliance pocketed the difference," TWU NSW Secretary Wayne Forno says.  

However, Mace has labelled the union’s claims "misleading" and says the underpayments were inadvertent. 

He told Owner//Driver that, as part of his contract with Toll, he had a schedule of rates for drivers using vehicles up to eight tonnes.

Georges was behind the wheel of a heavier truck, and so Mace had to estimate the rate he thought the driver should receive.  

"I paid what I thought was the correct rate," he says. 

Mace adds that he apologised to the driver and told him he would reimburse him immediately after the underpayments came to light.  

He calculated Georges was owed about $11,000 and paid the sum to him, but the TWU demanded the company fork out almost $25,000 after doing its own calculations.

Mace disputed the figure and adds that the union did not provide costings to back up its claim.

But he says he decided to pay after the TWU told him it would escalate the matter if Georges did not receive the sum.  

"I paid it. I just needed the matter resolved," he says.  

Mace says the incident marks the first time in his 20 years in the transport game an underpayment occurred.  

"I’ve never had an issue with my drivers," he says. 

"I’m not a sham contractor, I assure you." 

Toll, which did not respond to a request for comment, stuck by Reliance Transport but did seek assurances from the company it was complying with its obligations.  

"Toll demanded an explanation, as you would," Mace says. 

Forno says the underpayments happened for more than one year until the TWU’s senior delegate on site, Steve Newton, stepped in.  

Forno claims Reliance Transport initially denied any underpayment and later offered a small amount of back-pay until the union confronted management with figures and paperwork. 

"Questions must be asked as to why a company which rips off its drivers continues to get work from a transport giant like Toll, that generally does the right thing," he says.

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