Getting the Balance Right

Release date: 25/07/2016

Big Rigs, TWU NSW News, 24 July 2016
Last edition we shared with you the important changes that were recently made to the General Carriers Contract Determinations (GCCD) and in particular the expansion of its coverage across NSW.

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It's worth remembering the general protections that owner-drivers enjoy in NSW and the importance that these protections remain in place.
The GCCD ensures the balance is maintained between employee drivers and owner-drivers by providing our industry with the certainty that good regulations provide.
The Industrial Relations Act 1996 provides owner-drivers in NSW with a number of basic protections, including:
Contract Determinations (such as the GCCD) operate in the same way that Awards do for employee drivers by providing minimum rates and conditions for owner-drivers who fall within its coverage.
Contract Agreements give a group of owner-drivers the right to join together and agree to a common set of rates and conditions which becomes a legally registered and enforceable document. In many other states this is illegal and means that owner-drivers have to undercut each other to win the work.
Dispute resolution means that if an owner-driver has an industrial issue with their principal contractor, such as an unfair allocation of work, they have a cost-effective umpire in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission which can deal with the dispute quickly.
Unfair termination of contract operates in a similar way to unfair dismissals for employees. This means that if an owner-driver believes that they had their contract of carriage unfairly terminated they can have the matter heard by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission and potentially get the contract restored.
Goodwill disputes for when an owner-driver pays an amount of goodwill to enter contracts of carriage and their principal contractor refuses to acknowledge it down the track they have an independent body to determine the matter.
Many of these protections have been in place in NSW since the late 1970s.
Just like any change to the status quo there was some market disruption when the changes were initially introduced but the trick has always been to keep the balance between employees and owner-driver rates, conditions and protections right so that neither group can be exploited or played off against the other.
Were these protections to disappear then the bottom would drop out of the market since there would no longer be a floor or mechanism whereby owner-drivers could recover their costs.
Many would have their rates slashed overnight on a "take it or leave it" basis and of course there would be a flow-on effect where employee drivers would be priced out of their work.
The transport industry would become more unstable and dangerous as both companies and owner-drivers would be forced to cut back on maintenance in order to cut costs to maintain contracts.
This is the reason that we held a convoy across the Harbour Bridge in mid-June to ensure that no State Government of any political persuasion attempted to remove any of these protections.
The TWU encourages owner-drivers, wherever you are based in NSW, to contact the union to make sure you're getting a fair go and the protections you deserve.

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