Tribunal faces calls to delay minimum rates for owner-drivers

By: Brad Gardner, Photography by: Tamara Whitsed

RSRT will next week rule on applications to change the April start date for minimum rates.

Tribunal faces calls to delay minimum rates for owner-drivers
Push back: ALDODA president Bunny Brown wants minimum rates for owner-drivers delayed until October 3, 2016.


Trucking representatives will next week argue their case for minimum rates for owner-drivers to be delayed, but none of them can agree on what the revised start date should be.

The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) has announced a hearing will be held on March 15 in Brisbane to deal with applications from the Australian Long Distance Owner Drivers Association (ALDODA), the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) and NatRoad.

All groups believe mandatory minimum hourly and kilometre payments for owner-drivers, known as the Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order, will do more harm than good when they begin on April 4.

ALDODA wants the date pushed back to October 3 this year to give the industry more time to understand its obligations, while the NRFA says there should be an indefinite delay until all affected parties are aware of the implications of minimum rates.

However, NatRoad says minimum rates should begin on January 1 next year – a change in its original position that called for six months.

"We believe this delay is essential for the road transport industry to interpret, understand and comply with the order," NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says in the group's submission.

The RSRT released the order in December last year and gave the industry four months to prepare for it but Clark says a lack of information from the tribunal and the Fair Work Ombudsman, which will enforce minimum rates, about the scheme means the industry is unprepared.

In its submission, NatRoad takes issue with what it says are ambiguous definitions, a complex payments structure and the inability of an RSRT-provided online calculator to correctly determine rates that need to be paid.

"The consequence of these concerns means that all sectors of the industry, with the best intention, are unable to comply within the time frame available," Clark writes.

"It is unreasonable for industry to be forced into a position of noncompliance due to the lack of definitive guidance by the Tribunal and the Fairwork Ombudsman."

From next month, owner-drivers working in the supermarket distribution and linehaul sectors are due to receive minimum payments and payment for waiting time, loading and unloading, taking rest breaks and filling out paperwork.

However, ALDODA president Bunny Brown has written a submission to the RSRT warning its plans will financially hurt owner-drivers because they will lose work.

"Owner drivers are being told their service[s] are no longer required," he writes.

"Long standing viable relationships will be lost because of the rates and administrative requirement[s] imposed by the Order on those who parties who engage owner drivers."

Brown writes that owner-drivers already have avenues to pursue unfair treatment or compensation claims and that the industry does not need the tribunal.

"Chain of Responsibility legislation if enforced properly is the most appropriate way to ensure owner drivers and driver’s right[s] across the industry are fairly upheld," he says.

Like Clark, Brown is concerned definitions in the order are hard to understand and are unlikely to be clear until matters end up before a court to rule on.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has criticised opponents of minimum rates and says owner-drivers need to band together and support the scheme.

The RSRT last week uploaded an online calculator for the industry to determine the rates due to apply.

The RSRT will hold the hearing on the applications at 10am AEDT. While the full bench will sit in Brisbane, there will be video links to interstate for interested parties to take part in proceedings.

Those wanting to be involved need to notify the tribunal by 12pm AEDT, March 11.


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