The Government has opposed the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and has questioned the link between pay rates and safety risks taken by drivers because of pressure, despite the government’s own reports establishing the link. A Government review of the Tribunal published on Friday and relied on by Minister Michaelia Cash showed this Order and a previous Order would result in a 28% reduction in truck crashes.
“The safe rates Order is now in place and I am urging all parties to end the scaremongering and the lies which have been put out about it. This Order will benefit the trucking community, it will begin the process of helping to save lives on the roads and making owner drivers’ businesses more sustainable,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
The Order will set safe minimum rates for owner drivers working in retail and long-distance. It will address pressure drivers are under to speed, drive long hours, skip mandatory rest breaks and skip maintenance on their vehicles because of financial squeeze placed on them by major clients. Trucking is Australia’s deadliest profession with drivers 15 times more likely than any other profession to die at work. In March alone 25 people died in truck crashes.
“Minister Cash has called for the free market to run riot on trucking families and other road users. This will add to the slaughter on our roads as found by the National Transport Commission in a report in 2008,” Sheldon added.
Drivers along with the TWU are continuing to push for minimum rates across the industry with applications before the Tribunal in oil, fuel and gas; ports & wharves; waste; and the delivery of cash and valuables. The TWU is also seeking payment by clients to transport operators within 30 days of work completed.
Owner driver Frank Black appealed to the Federal Government to back the work of the Tribunal. “This Order will make us drivers safer on the roads. It will mean we’ll all have a minimum rate which will cover all our costs and help keep our businesses going. All we are saying is: ‘let the Tribunal do its work and help us to tackle the problems in our industry,” he said.
*** Notes ***
1. Safe Rates Order
The Order delivered last December sets down minimum safe rates for drivers, ensuring they are paid all their costs and for all the work they do. The Order will address the pressure on drivers in long-distance and retail to speed, drive long hours, skip breaks and delay maintenance on their vehicles. The Order ensures drivers are paid minimum rates which cover time spent waiting and queuing at depots and distribution centres. Most importantly the Order holds major retailers to account for the pressure on transport operators and drivers though their low cost contracts. This push for profits ultimately costs lives.
In a decision last Friday on whether to delay the Order past April 4th the Tribunal said industry groups had “created and perpetuated myths about the application and operation of the RSRO” and failed to inform their members about it. The Tribunal added that it was “scandalous that some bodies and persons have sought to create uncertainty and confusion by actions or omissions”.
Claims that the rates under the Order will make owner drivers uncompetitive are not true.
2. Employee driver versus owner driver claim
The argument that owner drivers will be driven out of business because they will be more expensive to engage than employee drivers just doesn’t hold up. An employer will have to own their own trucks for employees to drive and keep them maintained – a massive capital spend for any company. Employee drivers must be paid all year round award or agreement wages and allowances plus superannuation, insurances, holiday pay and benefits.
3. Evidence of pressure
A Safe Work Australia report in July showed
· 31% of employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done
· 20% accept dangerous behaviour, compared to less than 2% in other industries.
· 20% of transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines – this compares with just 6% of employers in other industries.
According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, transport operators have one of the highest rates of insolvencies of any industry and small firms of five full time employees or less are the most likely to go bankrupt. In the financial year to June 2015 there were 275 insolvencies among these small operators. In the financial year before that there were 548 insolvencies, with many still being hit with the effects of the GFC. The main reason for the insolvencies was inadequate cash flow.
5. Low pay
Many owner drivers are not making enough to get by as it is with average income of just under $29,500 and $29% of them underpaid (this is based on an analysis by PriceWaterhouseCoopers of the 2006 census which was included in the regulatory impact statement for the Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011). Transport companies are consistently in the top five industries for insolvency, with the vast majority of them small firms with five or less full-time employees.
Suicide is currently rampant among truck drivers with an analysis by the Victorian coroner’s court showing truck drivers had the highest number of suicides out of any other profession, with 53 drivers taking their own lives between 2008 to 2014.
Higher rates than the Order already exist under the NSW General Carriers Contract Determination and in many agreements across the country, and owner drivers have not gone out of business.
8. International dimension
Last October employers, governments and employee groups at the United Nations labour body, the International Labor Organization, backed a plan based on the Australian Safe Rates model to tackle unfair and unsafe remuneration as the root causes of the high global death toll in trucking.
9. The Liberal Party and its financial donors
The Liberal National Party receives billions of dollars in donations from retailers, banks and oil companies – all in line to be held to account for safety and poor rates in trucking by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. A financial link of $7 million exists between the Liberal National Party and Wesfarmers, the major retailer which opposes the Tribunal. Of this there is a $5.3 million link in the form of dividends drawn down from Wesfarmers shares owned by the Cormack Foundation, an associated entity of the Liberal Party.
A further $1.7 million in political donations was given by Wesfarmers and Coles to the Liberal and National parties.
10. Recent deaths
The 25 deaths during March include:
· WA, 25 Mar 2016: A man has been killed after his car collided head-on with a truck on Indian Ocean Drive in Caraban.
· NSW, 24 Mar 2016: A 27-year-old truck driver was killed in a fiery head-on crash with another truck on the Riverina Highway at Deniliquin.
· WA, 23 Mar 2016: A 24-year-old woman was killed in in a head-on collision between her hatchback and a road train on the Great Northern Highway near Mount Magnet. The victim’s three children, including a 14-month-old girl, were also seriously injured.
· NSW, 22 Mar 2016: An 88-year-old man has been killed after a crash between his ute and a rigid truck on the Lovell Street at Young.
· NSW, 21 Mar 2016: A 25-year-old woman has died in a head-on collision between her car and a refrigeration truck on Appin Road, south of Rosemeadow.
· NSW, 17 Mar 2016: A 37-year-old man was killed when his car collided with an oncoming truck on the Werris Creak Road, south of Tamworth.
· NT, 16 March 2016: A motorcyclist has been killed in a collision with a truck on the Stuart Highway near Adelaide River.
· NSW, 15 Mar 2016: A 19-year-old man was killed in a collision between two cars and a B-double on the Pacific Highway at Tyndale.
· SA, 15 Mar 2016: A male cyclist has died in a truck crash on Germein Road at Solomontown.
· NSW, 11 Mar 2016: A 32-year-old man has died in hospital following a crash between his car and a truck on the Pacific Highway at Blackmans Point.
· VIC, 10 Mar 2016: An 81-year-old male pedestrian was kill after being hit by a truck at the intersection of Burnley and Swan streets in Richmond.
· VIC, 10 Mar 2016: Two people, the parents of three children, were killed in a crash involving two trucks and two cars on Hopkins Road at Truganina.
· NSW, 9 Mar 2016: A man has been killed following a head-on collision between his car and a truck on Anderson Drive at Beresfield.
· NSW, 8 Mar 2016: A man has died after his car and a truck crashed on Tomago Road in Williamtown.
· WA, 8 Mar 2016: A 64-year-old truck driver was killed when his prime mover hit a tree and caught fire on Albany Highway in Tenterden.
· NSW, 7 Mar 2016: A man has died following a head-on crash between his van and a truck on the Pacific Highway at Cooperabung.
· SA, 5 Mar 2016: A 47-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman, who were both truck drivers, were killed when their truck hit a guardrail and burst into flames on the Eyre Highway near Port Augusta.
· VIC, 5 Mar 2016: A truck driver was killed when his truck hit a tree on the Western Freeway in Darley.
· WA, 4 Mar 2016: Two 25-year-old men died when their motorcycle crashed with a truck on McCombe Road in Halifax.
· VIC, 3 Mar 2016: Two people, a female sedan driver and a male truck driver, died when their vehicles collided head-on on Latrobe Road in Maryvale.
· VIC, 1 Mar 2016: A female truck driver has died after being pinned under her truck that rolled at a worksite on the South Gippsland Highway in Nyora.
11. The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal
· The RSRT has the power to inquire into practices in the road transport industry, including holding major clients like Coles to account for how their business practices affect safety throughout the supply chain
· It began operating in July 2012
· The RSRT is able to make orders on:
- Minimum remuneration for employee drivers and owner-drivers
- Industry practices for loading and unloading vehicles, waiting times, working hours, load limits, payment methods and payment periods
- Ways of reducing or removing remuneration-related incentives, pressures and practices that contribute to unsafe work practices.
· So far it has begun inquiries into five sectors: retail and long distance; oil, fuel and gas; cash-in-transit; waste; and port and wharf sector.
· It has made an important order requiring truck drivers to be paid within 30 days
· Last December it issued a ruling setting down minimum safe rates for drivers in retail and long-distance