This week has been another roller coaster ride for those trying to get the Contract Driver Order delayed or the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal abolished. The to and fro between the RSRT, the TWU and those opposing the new order has been never ending. Added to this we have the issue becoming a part of the pre-election hysteria gripping the political class.
Two bill are now to be introduced to the Parliament on April 18, next Monday, one would delay the start of the Contract Drivers Order until next January. The second seeks to completely repeal the act setting up the RSRT in the first place. These will act as belt and braces for the Government, if it can get enough Senate cross benchers it should get abolition up, but if there is any doubt, the move to get a delay is pretty certain of getting passed.
To this is added a submission to the RSRT from the Transport Workers Union. It is being described as a climb down, with a call for the delaying the minimum payments rules until 1 January 2017, payments being paid within 30 days, allowing different minimum rates for backloading trips, a rise and fall clause for fuel prices, and , most importantly of all, ensuring there is no disincentive to engage a contractor driver rather than an employee road transport driver.
It would seem this is an attempt to head th abolition off at the pass. The submission is posted to be heard at 10 am on Monday morning. In a swift reaction, the opponents of the Order are characterising the application as the TWU running scared at the prospect of abolition.
“Today’s actions by the TWU, including seeking to now delay the Order until 2017, is a clear admission the pay rate order they’ve been pushing for is causing immense stress and confusion in the trucking industry, and is not connected to improved safety outcomes for our truckies and the general public,” said NatRoad CEO, Warren Clark, on hearing the news.
Earlier in the week, the Australian Trucking Association had come out and criticised the TWU for misleading data about safety outcomes in the trucking industry.
“The TWU’s road safety statistics are a carefully crafted part of its case for the Road Safety Remuneration Order. Unfortunately, many of them are also inaccurate,” said Chris Melham, ATA CEO. “One of the TWU’s claims is that the trucking industry has an average of 330 deaths per year. However, this comes from a 1999 figure that includes fatalities in all heavy vehicle accidents, including buses.
“The Government updates these statistics four times every year, there’s no excuse for using figures that are 17 years old. There’s also no excuse to muddy the water by including deaths from crashes where trucks were simply not involved. Every accident is a tragedy, and there’s no question that every life lost on our roads is one too many. But you can’t reduce the rate of accidents by throwing around inaccurate and outdated figures.”
On Monday, Senator Glenn Lazarus, speaking in Karratha, came out strongly in support of the abolition of the RSRT. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull came out in support of abolition, taunting Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, to come out in support and admit fault.
On Tuesday, another Senator, Jacqui Lambie, came out in support of the abolition of the RSRT. “I call on the Liberal party to stop playing political games with the lives of 35,000 hard working Australian Trucking families. The Prime Minister’s decision to delay (until after the election), the abolishment of the RSRT only creates more uncertainty for Australian trucking families,” said Lambie.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister, Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash and Transport Minister, Darren Chester, announced, “The Government will introduce legislation to abolish the deeply flawed RSRT when Parliament resumes next week. Truck drivers are the life blood of Australian business with the road freight transport industry employing around 200,000 people. Any threat to the industry will have large flow-on effects on consumers. Tens of thousands of owner truck drivers, many of whom have taken out mortgages to buy their trucks, face being driven out of business by the RSRT.”
Coming out so strongly for abolition suggests the Government is comfortable it has the numbers in the Senate to get the bill up.
As the Parliamentarians are rolling into work in Canberra on Monday morning they should be met by the sight of a convoy of trucks, due to meet on the lawn in front of Parliament House in an ATA event, at 7.00am. MP’s and Senators are expected to address attendees as the Parliament prepares to sit. Those interested in attending can click here to register their intention.