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TWU and Labor slam RSRT decision

Union and opposition say the removal of the RSRT hasn't been thought through


Speaking after the federal parliament passed legislation to remove the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) and its Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 (RSRO) overnight, TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says the coalition has removed “the one tribunal that give fairness and makes our roads safer.”

 “Our roads will now see more deaths, more fatalities, and more owner-drivers and employees exploited,” he says.

Directing his comments at prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at a press rally this morning, Sheldon says the Liberal party leader “got rid of hope for thousands of owner-drivers and employees across this country.”

“We’re determined to fight, and fight again to make sure this country has safe roads and people that can live, breathe, and work on our roads without the fear of economic pressure that your government has now put on their shoulders.”

Sheldon says the TWU has believed, since before Easter, that a delay was required and has been working towards it up until last night.

“On Thursday, before the Easter break, there was an agreement across industry to reach an agreement with regards to both the tribunal decision that affects 0.1 per cent of owner-drivers in the livestock industry,” he says.

“There was an agreement struck by all the major negotiators, all the major associations, but Malcolm Turnbull and the industrial relations minister decided to go on a political frolic and that agreement collapsed.”

“Just yesterday, there was no opposition to the position put up by the Transport Workers’ Union on behalf of tens of thousands of owner-drivers and employees across the country,” but “Malcolm Turnbull made a decision last night.”

Setting the scene for the TWU’s next move, the TWU national secretary says the “18 families that have lost loved ones this month, they aren’t statistics on a piece of paper, they’re real people and we’ll damn-well fight for them.”

Community sentiment

The TWU says there is community support for the RSRT, citing a poll that says over three-quarters of Australians want the government to take action on the trucking industry’s safety.

“An opinion poll today shows a majority of people believe the Tribunal should be kept while just 12 per cent say it should be abolished,” a TWU statement says.

“The poll by Essential Media shows a majority of people support the Tribunal.

“Over 85 per cent say the Federal Government needs to take action to make the trucking industry safer.

“Major clients, which dictate transport contracts, should be held accountable for their impact on road safety, said 65 per cent of respondents.”

The union has been pushing the evidence angle since the beginning of the RSRT debate, highlighting the industry’s safety record – the transport industry currently sits atop the fatality rates with 12 times the average risk of all industries.

Making that point for the TWU is Sue Posnakidis, whose brother John Posnakidis was killed in 2010.

“My brother’s death has devastated our family and we know he should never have died,” Posnakidis says.

“He was killed by an inexperienced driver who’d had a ‘grueling work schedule’ and was driving a truck with faulty brakes, according to the coroner.”

While disappointed by the parliament, she says she’ll “keep fighting so that no other family has to go through what we are living every day.”

Also among the 50 drivers and family members in Canberra today showing their disappointment is owner-driver Roy Ballantyne, who says the move ends his chance for a pay rise.

“Now the government has taken away that increase and left me struggling again,” he says.

“I don’t want to have to keep choosing between putting food on the table and maintaining my truck.”

Fellow owner-driver John Waltis shared the outlook.

“Our job is the most dangerous job in Australia and I’ve been to the funerals of 50 mates killed in truck crashes to prove it,” Waltis says.

“It’s deeply disappointing to hear that Malcolm Turnbull has abolished the Tribunal – now there is no road safety watchdog to address the crisis in our industry.

“The race to the bottom on rates will continue tragically and so will the crashes and deaths.”

Shadow minister says Turnbull will rue the move

Shadow minister for employment and workplace relations Brendan O’Connor says Malcolm Turnbull will “rue the day that he has turned his back on the body of evidence that links wages and road deaths.”

Describing it as a tragic day, O’Connor says “based on the evidence that has been considered by commission reports, by coronial inquiries, and by the courts …there will be more deaths on our roads as a result.”

In a slight shift in stance, O’Connor says the Labor party had “concerns about the way in which the Order was dealt with by the tribunal, and was willing to sit down with affected parties.”

“Indeed, I think all parties were looking to do that before the tribunal, and it was regrettable that it wasn’t the course the tribunal had taken.”

The shadow minister says Labor is “strongly of the view [that] we need a way to address this problem on our roads,” but will continue to consider its position on the issue.


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