End of March looms for decision on minimum rates for owner-drivers

By: Brad Gardner, Photography by: Brad Gardner

Trucking industry has its chance to propose later start date for impending rates scheme.

End of March looms for decision on minimum rates for owner-drivers
Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal president Jennifer Acton.


The fate of minimum pay rates for owner-drivers is set to be determined before the end of March.

The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal has set aside the next two weeks to deal with arguments on whether the Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order (RSRO) should be delayed or go ahead as intended on April 4.

The decision came following a hearing today in Brisbane (with video links to interstate) on applications to vary the start date of the order, which sets minimum hourly and kilometre payments for owner-drivers. It also mandates payment for waiting time, unloading and loading, rest breaks and more.

Sections of the trucking industry and the broader business community want the scheme pushed back to January 1, 2017, prompting RSRT president Jennifer Acton to issue a draft variation to the RSRO seeking feedback on the proposal.

The draft variation also asks for responses to the Australian Industry Group’s proposal for minimum rates to be phased in over a 36-month period.

"This draft variation deals with the various proposals concerning commencement date and transitional provisions contained in the applications before us," Acton says.

Interested parties have until 12pm Monday, March 21 to lodge submissions for or against the draft variations.

Comments in reply are due midday on Thursday, March 24. Acton says the RSRT will decide on the same day if hearings need to be held between March 26 and 28 to rule on the draft variation.

While the draft variation does propose a new start date and transitional arrangements for minimum rates, Acton says this does not mean the scheme will not go ahead on April 4.

"However, the draft variation should not be taken as constituting a decision by the RSRT to vary the 2016 RSRO in accordance with the terms of the draft variation or otherwise," she says.

During an at times tense and rowdy hearing today, the RSRT heard submissions from various groups and individuals, including the Federal Government, seeking variations to the start date ranging from July 1 this year to April next year. Some proposed an indefinite delay. 

The Transport Workers Union and some individual owner-drivers, including Jerry Brown-Sarre and Steve Melichar, urged the RSRT to stick to the original April 4 start date.

Some attendees used the hearing to voice their opposition to minimum rates in general, prompting a rebuke from the RSRT on more than one occasion.

At one point Acton threatened to boot everyone out of the Brisbane hearing when a small but vocal group loudly congratulated and clapped the wife of an owner-driver while she was making a statement to the tribunal where she sought a delay to minimum rates.

"Excuse me, these are formal proceedings. This is not the opportunity for clapping," a stern Acton informed the Brisbane attendees.

"There is no clapping in formal proceedings. If it happens again I will order the courtroom to be cleared."

Acton’s intervention calmed the situation somewhat, but smaller bouts of clapping and cheering continued to break out intermittently throughout the day when attendees agreed with comments from those giving statements about minimum rates.

At one stage Rocky’s Own Transport CEO Bryan Smith left his seat in the public area, walked to the table where lawyers and representatives were giving evidence and interrupted proceedings to make his thoughts known about how the hearing was being conducted.

Toward the end of the hearing Tracey Zimmerman, the wife of an owner-driver, yelled at Acton for being "so rude" when she cut off an owner-driver providing a statement about his concerns with minimum rates.



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