Road Safety Remuneration legislation stirs debate

Analysis

Road Safety Remuneration legislation stirs debate

In addition to reducing the road death toll in Australia, ‘Safe Rates’ legislation will reduce the cost of truck incidents for tax payers by $2.7b annually, according to Tony Sheldon, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) national secretary.

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In addition to reducing the road death toll in Australia, ‘Safe Rates’ legislation will reduce the cost of truck incidents for tax payers by $2.7b annually, according to Tony Sheldon, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) national secretary.

Sheldon’s comments were made yesterday as the TWU lodged their submission on the Road Safety Remuneration Bill to the Federal Committee on Infrastructure and Communications.

‘Each year 330 people are killed and more than 5,300 are injured [on roads],’ Sheldon said.

‘The road transport industry is the most dangerous industry in Australia, with a fatality rate that is an appalling 10 times the Australian industry average.’
 
‘The recent spate of major accidents involving trucks on our roads has once again highlighted the urgent need for legislation to make our roads safer for every Australian.’

‘However, it will also save hard working taxpaying families the huge burden of paying for the lack of safe rates and conditions in the industry.’

Each road deaths costs $1.7m
 
Sheldon said the federal committee will be holding a parliamentary hearing in the coming weeks, which will be followed by a vote on the ‘Road Safety Remuneration Bill’ in the Australian House of Representatives.

‘Our submission highlights the severe pressures currently placed by major retailers, such as Coles, on transport drivers and how the proposed legislation will result in safer roads for every Australian,’ he said.

‘In addition to saving lives, this legislation will help to substantially reduce the toll the Australian economy pays each year as a result of heavy vehicle incidents.’

‘Each road death costs $1.7 million and each injury in an incident costs $408,000. The total cost has been independently valued at more than $2.7 billion each year. Offering drivers fair working conditions and safe rates will substantially reduce this figure.’

‘A fair wage for a fair day’s work’
 
The TWU has long-advocated a ‘Safe Rates’ system — wherein truck drivers receive full-cost recovery for the work they perform — to address the economic factors that contribute to safety incidents in the road transport industry. The union argument has relied on evidence linking poor pay and conditions to ‘risky’ work practices by drivers including speeding, long hours and the use of illicit substances.

‘We have had more than 20 years of commissions, coroners reports and Inquires which have highlighted time and again the link between the transport safety crises and economic factors,’ Sheldon said.

‘Now it is time for action to tackle this ongoing safety crisis. Transport workers are dictated to by major corporations whose dominance in the market allows them to demand unrealistic delivery schedules, force drivers to queue unpaid for hours to load or unload their trucks, and to offer rates that are frequently below minimum wage once costs are deducted.’
 
‘Owner-drivers and employee-drivers should not have to work in an industry with a fatality rate that is 10 times the industrial average. Drivers don’t want to be millionaires; like every Australian they deserve a fair wage for a fair day’s work.’

The TWU is currently undertaking intensive campaigning to ensure the legislation for Safe Rates is passed.

Safe Rates ‘not the answer’: Ai Group
 
Meanwhile, Heather Ridout, chief executive of Ai Group has said a ‘narrow focus’ on how, and how much, drivers are paid will not lead to improvements in road safety.

‘The Bill would establish a new Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal with the power to make road safety remuneration orders for owner drivers and employee drivers, to override road transport contracts, awards and enterprise agreements which are less beneficial to a driver,’ Ridout said.

‘The orders would be able to be made against road transport companies as well as those who use road transport such as retailers and manufacturers.’

‘Road safety is a critically important issue for employers, employees and the whole community but the proposals in the Bill are not the answer.’

Ridout said the remuneration arrangements in the Bill are at odds with the position that the Fair Work Act 2009 and modern awards provide a safety net for employees, and that enterprise agreements have an important role to play.

‘The Bill has the potential to undermine the integrity of essential elements of the Fair Work workplace relations system,’ she said.

‘The establishment of the new Tribunal would distract Government and industry attention and resources away from the measures which are widely recognised as improving safety, such as: risk identification and control; improved roads; fatigue management; education and training; drug and alcohol policies; use of technology; and strong compliance and enforcement mechanisms.’

The Ai Group is currently finalising its submission on the Road Safety Remuneration Bill.

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