TWU tears into NatRoad for its stance on minimum rates

Photography by: Brad Gardner

Union accuses leading trucking association of failing to represent its members.

TWU tears into NatRoad for its stance on minimum rates
In his sights: TWU boss Tony Sheldon has singled out NatRoad for its conduct regarding minimum rates for owner-drivers.


The fight over minimum rates for owner-drivers has turned nasty, with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) launching a verbal broadside against NatRoad and accusing it of failing to represent its members.

Both groups have long been on opposite sides of the debate on fixing minimum payments for owner-drivers, and the union’s animosity toward the lobby group spilled out during a recent three-day hearing on applications to vary the Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order.

TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon has labelled NatRoad "a disgrace" and accused it of "spreading lies" about the order, which sets minimum hourly and kilometre payments for owner-drivers.

NatRoad has not publicly attacked the union, but in a statement it says it is continuing to represent small and medium sized transporters and trying to reduce confusion about minimum rates.

The union, however, claims NatRoad has been responsible for running a fear campaign built around convincing owner-drivers they will be forced out of the industry once the scheme begins.

"They have spread lies about the safe rates order, which would make the job of owner-drivers safer and more sustainable. NatRoad are a disgrace to our industry," Sheldon says.

The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) handed down its minimum rates order in December last year, ending more than two years of work that involved consultations with trucking groups including NatRoad.  

Sheldon claims that instead of keeping its members informed about minimum rates during this time, NatRoad chose to keep its members in the dark.

"NatRoad has done its members a gross disservice by failing during two years of hearings and consultations on the order to inform them about its impact or seek their input," he says.

"It is clear that instead of informing its members NatRoad has been playing industry politics and running a party political agenda. They should consider a name change to RatRoad."

The union is also seething after NatRoad did not support a TWU proposal for 30-day payment terms throughout the trucking industry.

The TWU claims its application will alleviate financial pressure on trucking companies, some of which wait up to 120 days to be paid.

"NatRoad have failed to defend the interests of those they say they represent at every turn," Sheldon says.

NatRoad, which took part in the hearing on applications to vary the order, says it is looking after the interests of transport operators and has received strong backing for its stance on minimum rates.

"NatRoad continues to represent the interests of small and medium sized transport operators who make up the majority of the transport industry in Australia in their push to delay the commencement of the 2016 RSRT order," the group says.
"Issues of safety are paramount to NatRoad and its members.  NatRoad continues to receive overwhelming support from small and medium transport operators, many of whom are owner-drivers, in regard to NatRoad’s application to the RSRT, which includes seeking a delay in the commencement of the 2016 RSRT order."

NatRoad wants minimum rates delayed until at least January 1 next year to give the industry more time to prepare for the scheme.

Prior to the RSRT hearing, NatRoad ran a series of information sessions about minimum rates

"NatRoad continues to work hard to reduce confusion and uncertainty and to protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable in the transport industry," it says.

"NatRoad anticipates that the RSRT will hand down its decision about delaying the commencement date of the 2016 RSRT order later in the week, and it would be inappropriate to comment further given the RSRT has not yet handed down its decision."

Unless the RSRT agrees to delay minimum rates, the scheme will begin on April 4.


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