The line in the political sand has gotten a lot wider after Federal Labor promised to restore the powers of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) in some form if elected.
The TWU has protested loud and long since the Coalition turned its back on road safety in scrapping the RSRT in April 2016. We have also been lobbying policy makers to reinstate in legislation the fundamental principles of the RSRT.
The RSRT had the power to set pay and conditions for road transport drivers, hold major companies to account for low cost contracts and investigate safety in trucking. In fact, a Government report found the watchdog’s Orders had cut truck crashes by 28% when it was killed off, since then, sadly, 361 people have died in truck crashes and the rates of crashes and fatalities in the industry have shot up more than 90% in some states.
The TWU (VIC/TAS Branch) congratulates the ALP for recognising the issues and putting road safety and people’s lives before politics.
Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor told The Weekend Australian that he would discuss with the TWU whether it returns as a stand-alone body or as a division in the Fair Work Commission.
“I’m open to options available but there is a significant support from employers and by the unions to reassert the principles of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to reduce fatalities of truck drivers and the general driving public because of fatigue, because of an oppressive environment in which people are desperate to make ends meet, and often that leads them to endangering themselves and others,” he said.
Mr O’Connor also echoed what the TWU have been saying all along – that the Coalition’s scrapping of the tribunal, which sets pay and conditions for truck drivers, was an “outrageous over-reaction” and there was evidence its abolition had led to more road deaths.
“We are going to look at what we need to do to return to a regulation that takes into account the correlation between wages, conditions and safety, not just workers’ safety but public safety, given it’s public roads,’’ he said.
Mr O’Connor went on to say that Labor would also ‘likely’ scrap the Registered Organisations Commission, would scrap the Australian Building and Construction Commission and increase available penalties for deliberate underpayment of wages by employers.
The news follows truck drivers and TWU members and officials holding a National Day of Action in all major capitals last week as a new survey shows 93% of drivers want to see changes to make transport safer and less pressured.
The survey also shows almost 93% of drivers believe pressure on them is continuing or increasing, with drivers listing the financial squeeze from major supermarkets and manufacturers, bad roads, unsafe truck stops and unrealistic deadlines as major sources of pressure. Over 1,000 drivers responded to the survey.