The TWU (VIC/TAS Branch) welcomes Andrews Government plans to introduce compliance and enforcement mechanisms to protect owner drivers and forestry contractors from predatory employers.
Listen to Branch Secretary John Berger discuss the proposed changes with ABC Melbourne Mornings presenter Jon Faine –
The proposed legislative changes to the Owner Driver and Forestry Contractors Act would ensure thousands of owner drivers would no longer be vulnerable to exploitation or forced into unsafe practices by economic pressures down supply chains.
TWU (VIC/TAS Branch) Secretary John Berger said the changes would take important steps to separate employers wanting to do the right thing from those who are simply out to make as much profit as possible by exploiting hard-working truck drivers.
“They would be like a pressure valve releasing for owner drivers. We have been campaigning for a very long time to help these drivers, many of whom are treated like second-class citizens,” Mr Berger said.
“Currently, many are forced to accept poorly-paid work and they then struggle to meet operating costs and maintain vehicles and often have to make a call between fixing the truck and feeding the family.
“The direct result of this brutal choice is an increasing number of unsafe trucks on the road and fatigued, sometimes drug-affected drivers who turn to stimulates to stay awake, driving them dangerously and for long hours to get from A to B as quickly as possible.
“Enforcement and compliance mechanisms policed by a fully-funded Victorian Wage Inspectorate, penalties for non-compliance and failing to provide rate and cost schedules and written contracts and a new, low-cost dispute resolution process will bring surety and consistency to the industry.”
PROPOSED CHANGES INCLUDE:
Amendments to the joint negotiation provisions of the Act to allow contractors to be offered a regulated contract on the terms and conditions of an existing joint agreement. This means any site agreement must be offered to new owner drivers, rather than a new contract for a new owner driver undercutting existing conditions.
Under the proposed changes there will be enforcement and compliance mechanisms policed by a $22 million fully-funded Victorian Wage Inspectorate.
There will be penalties for non-compliance and failing to provide rate and cost schedules and written contracts.
Payments will have to be made within 30 days of an invoice being received.
There will be a new low cost, binding dispute resolution process at Small Business Commission who will now have the ability to arbitrate on matters such as termination of contract. The new system will be more accessible for owner drivers and the union.
The Act will also be expanded to cover gig economy workers, such as Uber Freight.
Several of the proposed legislative changes were suggested by the TWU in its submission to the Victorian Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work. That review found widespread non-compliance with the Act placing worker safety and incomes at risk.
The proposed legislation must still pass through Parliament, the TWU looks forward to working with all political parties and crossbench MPs in seeking full support for these important legislative changes.
Mr Berger said he felt “great relief” for not only owner drivers but all road users that “the authorities are finally beginning to understand what we have been saying across all these years.”
“The people who operate these machines are not just truck drivers, they are parents and contributing members of the community and, importantly, they are service providers who ensure all the working parts that make Australia tick come together,” he said.