The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is rallying to prevent minimum rates for owner-drivers from being delayed.
The TWU says it will oppose applications from the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) and NatRoad to push back the start date of minimum rates to January 1, 2017.
The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) ruled last December for minimum hourly and kilometre payments to begin on April 4, but it will next week hear applications to vary the date.
The RSRT’s ruling is designed to ensure owner-drivers are paid enough to prevent them from cutting corners on safety and vehicle maintenance to make ends meet.
Once introduced, the rates will guarantee payment for waiting time, loading and unloading, taking mandatory fatigue management breaks and filling out work diaries.
"This ruling addresses deaths in truck crashes and will make the industry safe and sustainable. It beggars belief that Ai Group and NatRoad would want to stand in the way of this ruling," TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says.
The TWU is also planning to gather in the nation’s capital to raise the issue of truck safety with politicians.
The Ai Group and NatRoad have asked for minimum rates to be delayed to give the trucking industry more time to adjust to the new payments structure. Both groups also believe the rates are too high and will discourage companies from using owner-drivers.
It’s not an argument the TWU buys.
"Both Ai Group and NatRoad have failed to explain why there is a problem with this order when higher rates already exist under New South Wales laws and in other agreements," Sheldon says.
"It is clear what is at play here: wealthy retailers at the top fear their profits may get hit by this order, but profits must never be put before people’s lives."
Minimum rates will bind multiple parties in the supply chain because hirers contracting trucking companies will need to ensure they pay them enough so trucking companies can afford to pay owner-drivers at least the minimum rate.
Owner-drivers must be paid within 30 days, and the TWU says this should extend to cover trucking companies. Hirers can currently impose their own terms, with some setting 90-day and 120-day terms.
"It is unsustainable for businesses to wait up to four months for payment, as happens at present. It is adding an unsustainable cost burden on transport operators which affects how they maintain their fleets and pay their drivers," Sheldon says.
NatRoad and the Ai Group are not the only associations trying to prevent minimum rates from beginning on April 4.
The Australian Long Distance Owner Drivers Association (ALDODA) and the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) do not want minimum rates to begin next month, but both groups have different opinions on how long the scheme should be delayed for.
ALDODA has recommended October 3 as the start date, but the NRFA says there should be an indefinite delay until all affected parties properly understand their obligations.