TWU: Positive Year Ahead

Release date: 18/01/2019

Owner Driver, by TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine, 17 January 2019
Rising pressure will bring accountability to bear on wealthy clients’ damaging effects on the industry. The TWU's Michael Kaine writes.

This year will be a big year for our union. This year we will make our voices heard and we will leave no one in any doubt – not the politicians, the regulators, the wealthy companies at the top of the transport supply chain or the general public – that we want change in our industry.
Our aim is to lift standards right across the industry so that all drivers are safe at work and are paid a fair safe rate.
Our fight for Safe Rates, as I have written before, is simply about fairness. It says transport operators and drivers have the right to earn a living without being pushed into bankruptcy. It says drivers have the right to be paid for all the work they do and to be safe in their jobs. It says all road users have the right not to be killed and injured on the roads from safety getting cut because of costs. It says the wealthy companies at the top can no longer escape the responsibility of their effects on our industry.
Our industry was bruised almost three years ago when the Federal Government and its allies, such as the likes of NatRoad and the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), chose to attack the plan for fairness in our industry. The Federal Government detested the notion that their mates in wealthy companies which bankroll them would be held accountable for safety in trucking and forced to pay more so their goods could be delivered safely. They hated the idea of an application forcing these wealthy mates to pay transport operators within 30 days for work.
NatRoad, the ATA and the Federal Government collectively detested the notion that road safety should be everybody’s problem and did not want to acknowledge that putting financial pressure on operators and drivers puts safety at risk. They detested the idea of being forced to pay drivers a minimum safe rate for all their work.

Cash flow crisis
I spoke at the ATA council recently and explained the idea behind Safe Rates and why it was an important chance for real reform in our industry. I stated that while the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal had all of the powers that were necessary to make these reforms that the minimum safe rates order was being poorly implemented.
Sadly, neither the ATA nor NatRoad have so far failed to come on board. They don’t want to accept how a Safe Rates system will give much needed relief to transport operators by holding wealthy clients to account. They don’t want to accept how much more sustainable, safer and fairer our industry will be.
They also don’t want to accept the role they played in making our industry worse: by tearing down an Order guaranteeing 30-day payments to owner-drivers and along with it an application to extend this guarantee to all transport operators. They don’t want to accept that they have done not one thing to make our industry better in the last three years. There has been no increase in rates and unpaid work, waiting time and financial insecurity are still major problems. Transport operators are still being forced into insolvency at higher rates than most other industries because the margins are so tight.
In the 2017 financial year, 469 companies entered into external administration in the transport, postal and warehousing industries. Of those, 65 percent were businesses that employed less than five employees. The main reason for the insolvencies was inadequate cash flow.
We welcome open dialogue with industry bodies on the future of our industry. But we will not find common ground if groups continue to refuse to back meaningful reforms to the problems drivers and transport operators face – from chronic fatigue, long working hours, high rates of deaths and injuries, poor maintenance on fleets. We want enforceable rates, supply chain accountability and guarantees that transport operators will be allowed to run safe sustainable businesses. Nothing will distract us from this goal.
We are working with other industry bodies which share our vision for making our industry safer and fairer. We remain open at any stage for others to come on board.

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