NatRoad, TWU clash over pay rates for owner-drivers

By: Brad Gardner


Industry group warns of "price shocks" from RSRT decision, but union dismisses claims as "ludicrous".

NatRoad, TWU clash over pay rates for owner-drivers
NatRoad believes major cities and rural and regional areas of Australia will suffer once mandatory minimum pay rates for owner-drivers begin.

 

NatRoad has come out swinging against the plan to fix pay rates for owner-drivers, but its claim that the decision will significantly increase the price of consumer goods has been dismissed as "rubbish".

The employer representative group issued a blunt statement in the wake of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s (RSRT) ruling guaranteeing owner-drivers minimum payments.

NatRoad claims the new rates, once introduced, will be as much as 30 per cent higher than what is currently paid to owner-drivers and "will send price shocks through and beyond the industry".

"These effects will be disproportionately felt in regional and rural areas, but there will also be a significant cost to consumers in Sydney, Melbourne and other large cities. Bread, milk, fuel, and any common consumer item can be expected to rise in price," it says.

NatRoad wants the current Federal Government to intervene in the matter to halt the rate increases. Despite being a critic of the RSRT and denying a link between low rates of pay and poor safety in trucking, the Government has not yet responded to the RSRT’s ruling.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) says it is disappointed by NatRoad’s comments, while national assistant secretary Michael Kaine has questioned if the group has the best interests of its members at heart by not supporting the RSRT’s ruling. 

"Some of the claims in that statement that they have put forward aren’t sustainable. Quite frankly, they are ludicrous," Kaine says.

"What NatRoad should be doing if they were really acting in their interests of their members would be to support this order."

Kaine says NatRoad never put any evidence of "price shocks" to the tribunal during the course of discussions on minimum rates for owner-drivers.

"I think it is absolute rubbish and it is unsubstantiated. There has been nothing at all put to that effect to the tribunal over 24 months, nothing at all put over 24 months," Kaine says.

"There has been no evidence of price shocks, no evidence of any suggestion that there will be any flow-on to prices…It is just a figment that has come up."

From April 4, Australia’s owner-drivers working in the supermarket distribution sector and linehaul operations will need to receive at least the minimum kilometre and hourly rate outlined in the RSRT’s ruling. Payments will vary based on factors including the task and what truck and trailer is being used.

Along with receiving a mandatory rate, owner-drivers must be paid for waiting to load or unload, filling out paperwork, taking rest breaks, supervising, refuelling a truck, and inspecting, servicing or preparing the vehicle a hirer supplies.

Kaine says the RSRT’s decision to introduce the new rates structure on April 4 gives the trucking industry enough time to prepare.

"Anyone who is suggesting they are not going to be ready by April is really having a lend, I think," he says.

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