NSW owner-drivers must be protected: Cotsis
Release date: 14/11/2011
NSW Labor’s fresh-faced MP, Sophie Cotsis, has put the heat on the state’s government to rule out any changes to industrial relations provisions prescribing pay and conditions for owner-drivers.
Brad Gardner, Australian Transport News
Fearing further changes to the Industrial Relations Act are on the cards, Cotsis says chapter six of the legislation allowing the Industrial Relations Commission to regulate the terms and conditions of owner-drivers and their principal contractors must be protected.
Premier Barry O’Farrell earlier this year stripped the Industrial Relations Commission of the power to overrule government during wage disputes with public servants.
“My Labor colleagues and I have been contacted by owner-drivers who have expressed concerns about the future of their pay conditions and jobs,” Cotsis says.
“Historically, owner-drivers have not enjoyed the legislative and other protections that apply to employees. As a result, exploitation and abuse of owner-drivers can be rife, with negative impacts not only on workers, but also on the transport industry and the community.”
Cotsis says the responsibility to protect owner-drivers from being exploited falls on the shoulders of parliamentarians.
The Act permits the commission to set terms and conditions such as minimum cost recovery. It also takes into account individual transport sectors and classes of vehicles when making a ruling.
Cotsis says most owner-drivers work for one contractor which permits the latter to exert a significant amount of economic and industrial power over them.
“Transport workers are the backbone of our modern economy…they rely on us here in Parliament to pass and preserve legislation that will protect these workers from unfair exploitation, to which owner-drivers are particularly vulnerable,” she says.
“I urge the O’Farrell Government to...commit to protecting the provisions in chapter six [of the Act] and protecting the pay and conditions of owner-drivers.”
Her comments follow the release of an issues paper late last month recommending the state’s tribunals be consolidated due to industrial changes which have reduced their workload.
The Standing Committee on Law and Justice is responsible for the matter and is due to hold public hearings next month.
“The committee will look at existing consolidated or ‘super tribunals’, such as the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, to learn from their experiences,” chairman David Clarke says.
The NSW branch of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) says it will lobby government to ensure chapter six of the Act is retained if any changes are made to the commission
NSW TWU Secretary Wayne Forno says a large number of owner-drivers rely on the powers of the commission to remain profitable.
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