Safes Rates questions answered

AFTER the first of July, a national system of Safe Rates will become a reality.

The Road Safety Remuneration Act 2012 is expected to improve the conditions of truck drivers.

In this column, I will try to answer a number of frequently asked questions about Safe Rates.

What exactly will Safe Rates law do?

Safe Rates law will set up a Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

This tribunal is an independent body that will be headed by a combination of members of Fair Work Australia with legal experience and industry representatives with industry experience. This Tribunal starts on 1 July 2012.

What will the Tribunal do?

The tribunal will allow Road Safety Remuneration Orders (RSROs) to be made.

RSROs will set payment rates such as providing paid waiting time, safe methods of payment and safe working hours among other things. This will apply to every member of the supply chain and NOT JUST one principal contractor.

It will allow collective agreements for owner-drivers to be registered and it will also allow for dispute resolution mechanisms for employees and owner-drivers.

Why do we need Safe Rates?

We now know that rates of pay contribute to driver safety - or the lack of it.

For example, many drivers are currently not paid for waiting time. Under Safe Rates, this can be remedied by the making of a RSRO which ensures that drivers receive paid waiting time.

When paid waiting time was introduced at Sydney ports, waiting time greatly reduced as the top of the supply chain was forced to fix it or pay more money.

This in turn led to greater systemic efficiencies.

How do we know that rates of pay contribute to driver safety?

The TWU has over the years commissioned numerous independent reports and independent research has also been conducted by academics and experts. The conclusions from these reports in addition to the findings of various coronial inquests suggest a marked correlation between rates of pay and road safety conditions.

In 1991, we had a Commonwealth study clearly establishing the link between rates of pay and safety.

In 2005, we had a coronial finding that documented the exposure to risk that drivers are subjected to when they are on low rates of pay.

In 2008 a report for the National Transport Commission produced by the Hon. Lance Wright QC and Professor Michael Quinlan linked safety in the transport industry to levels and methods of payment.

The evidence therefore clearly establishes the need for a system of Safe Rates.

But will Safe Rates affect Chapter 6 in NSW?

RSROs will override NSW contract determinations where they cover the same group of transport workers. However, Contract Determinations will continue to apply until an RSRO specifically overrides them.

Owner-drivers in NSW will still have access to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (NSW IRC) to contest unfair termination of their contracts of carriage.

While the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal will allow for dispute resolution procedures, these only apply in relation to safety and general industrial disputes involving owner-drivers will still be handled by the NSW IRC.

What will Safe Rates do for employers?

For employers, there will be more expansive conditions in RSROs than there are currently in awards at Fair Work Australia.

Safe Rates will cover the entire supply chain and set safe working hours and conditions.

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