By ERWIN CHLANDA
Not many trucking operators in the NT are affected by rulings of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal but those who are don’t like it, says Territory Road Transport Association EO Louise Bilato.
She says the tribunal is undermining the people it professes to be helping by setting minimum pay rates for people who are running their own business.
“They want to decide where their money goes, like all self employed people in any line of business. No tribunal tells graphic designers what to pay themselves,” she says.
The Federal Government will introduce legislation into Parliament next week to immediately abolish the independent tribunal which nominally came into effect on April 4. However, doubts have been expressed whether the Turnbull government has the numbers.
Ms Bilato says there are about 1000 road trains in the NT of which some 100 belong to owner operators. The majority belong to trucking companies which are not covered by the tribunal.
She says as no-one can tell owner operators how to spend their money, the connection between pay and safety is tenuous.
It would not reduce speeding and “taking drugs to stay awake at night,” nor would it improve maintenance, says Ms Bilato.
In any case, only about 5% of NT traffic accidents are related to poor maintenance.
An imposed wages regime would affect the owners’ ability to set their own freight rates and do deals for backloading.
For owner operators of road trains, which are expensive, the driver’s wages are only a small component of the operating costs.
It is much bigger for people delivering parcels in smaller trucks, for example, which are covered by the tribunal.
The tribunal has a “Big Brother mentality,” says Ms Bilato, and its controls are a duplication with existing legislation governing road and workplace safety.
A trucking company manager speaking on condition of not being named suggests that the Transport Workers Union is promoting the tribunal’s role because increased superannuation payments that would flow from higher wages would benefit superannuation funds in which the TWU has an interest.
Meanwhile TWU SA/NT Branch Secretary Ray Wyatt says the Prime Minister was spreading misinformation and fear among drivers in the Northern Territory and using the issue as a political football.
“A couple of weeks ago the truck drivers of the Northern Territory never heard from Malcolm Turnbull. Today he is ignoring the crisis they face in terms of the highest workplace deaths, chronic fatigue, stress, mental health problems, suicide and bankruptcies. He is also choosing to ignore the thousands of families left devastated by truck crashes who want to see change,” Mr Wyatt says.
He is saying he wants to abolish the tribunal “which is investigating appalling practices in the transport industry such as a race to the bottom in the armoured car industry where drivers are being put into cars to deliver cash and valuables without protection. This will put drivers and other Territorians at risk of serious injury and death during armed robberies”.
Mr Wyatt says the Government’s own reports released recently show that road transport has the “highest fatality rates of any industry in Australia” with 12 times the average for all industries. The reports also show the link between road safety and the pay rates of drivers and that the tribunal will reduce truck crashes by 28%.