Safe and Fair Rates

Release date: 18/02/2016

Owner Driver, by TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon, 18 February 2016
We in Australia have never shied away from fighting for our rights. It’s the reason Australia was the first place to adopt the 8-hour working day and the reason we pioneered schemes to protect the vulnerable, such as the superannuation system and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Bringing it back to our industry, it’s the reason NSW drivers won safe and fair rates.
But it’s one thing having a right and another thing entirely exercising that right. This is a critical point as we fast approach April 4th – the day when the first national safe and fair rates system for owner drivers in retail and long-distance kicks in. It is vital that drivers are clear about the rights that this system gives them and that they are ready to stand up at yards around the country to exercise their rights.
There has never been a greater demonstration of the deathly grip wealthy retailers and manufacturers have on our industry than the fear they have been able to spread on the Road Safety Remuneration Order. Drivers, and the transport operators which employ them, have toiled under low cost contracts from these retailers. These retailers have driven down conditions, forced maintenance of vehicles to be stripped back and put pressure on drivers to race around the country, driving out of hours and forgoing breaks and safety checks.  They have devastated families and torn communities apart because of the death toll from truck crashes.
Yet when an Order is made turning the tide on this practice the power that wealthy retailers and manufacturers wield means this is seen by some as a bad thing. Imagine: the idea that a driver is paid for all of his work should be wrong and negative.
But the beauty of this Order is that it will challenge the wealthy companies at the top. It will ensure that their contracts allow for their goods to be delivered safety – and that means paying drivers and operators fair and safe remuneration for their work.
It is vital that drivers stand together and fight for their rights under this Order.

Here are a few points worth mentioning next time you hear people talking about the Order in your yard:

  • The Order applies to contractor drivers who provide transport services in relation to anything destined for sale in a supermarket chain or in relation to a long distance operation
  • Owner drivers will still remain competitive. Employee drivers must be paid under award rates and allowances with fleet owners also having superannuation and insurance obligations. Wealthy retailers have always had a squeeze on our industry, forcing the employment of illegal and exploited drivers. But this practice is against the law and so to stop this we need to stand together
  • Not all rates will increase. This is about ensuring minimum safe rates so owner drivers can do their jobs safely. Already drivers in NSW are paid above the rates and many have been able to argue with their union even higher rates in their yards than what is mandated in the State
  • In addition to the Order we are also calling for a national auditing, education and industrial rights fund paid into by all employers along the supply chain. This fund would ensure companies are meeting safety obligations and that those at the top of supply chains are being held to account for work carried out for them. The fund would also educate employers on their obligations while training drivers on safety and their rights at work.
Owner drivers are long overdue this Order which will address many of the wrongs in our industry.
Ray Childs, a NSW owner driver is keen to see this system go national. “Safe Rates have been in existence in NSW for some years now. It gives us the protections we need and we have been able to negotiate on our sites even better rates as owner drivers than the new order. The fact that this will soon be a national right is a great thing."
This Order is just the start and an important point is to make sure you know your rights and are ready to stand up and demand them.
I urge all drivers to not allow billion-dollar companies to sabotage the Order which was long and hard fought. Don’t let them bully you - stand together and demand your rights. Contact the TWU and log on to our website to get all the details about what this Order will entail. Change is coming, whether you benefit or not will come down to you.

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