The TWU is calling on the Federal Government to properly protect employee drivers after an embarrassing climb down by the ATO over unfair tax changes to truck driver meal expenses.
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TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said the Federal Government must ensure these unacceptable tax changes will not be reintroduced.
“They caused widespread confusion and anger among drivers, who are already under enough pressure. The ATO is refusing to reverse the decision and has only given drivers a reprieve for this tax year. Truck drivers need certainty on what they can claim and how. This is a disgraceful way to run a tax department and the Federal Government must take responsibility for it,” he said.
“The Federal Government robbed owner drivers of guaranteed 30-day payments. It robbed them of minimum safe rates. It robbed them of an independent tribunal which could investigate the effect of low rates on safety in their industry. It refuses to acknowledge the increase in deaths in truck crashes and among transport workers. It refuses to hold clients to account for the financial squeeze right across the industry. Now it is overseeing the piling of more pressure on drivers through its tax department. This Government must stop these attacks on drivers.”
TWU (Vic/Tas Branch) Secretary John Berger said he was highly-concerned that a government body had out of the blue handed members – already burdened with crippling expenses including the high cost of road tolls, fuel and maintenance (for starters) – a forced pay cut.
“We took up the fight because there was no fairness to the ATO plan and it simply added to the economic pressure, tight margins and paperwork that drivers and their families face in what is already a pressure-cooker industry,” John said.
“Unfortunately, what those discussions with the ATO exposed was the huge disconnect and information vacuum between what this behemoth bureaucracy thinks the working life of the everyday trucker looks like and the reality. It is a disturbing thought that the ATO may be working from the same information about the trucking industry used by the Turnbull Government in justifying its dismantling of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.”
A TWU petition on the issue has attracted over 1,400 signatures.
“It’s easy for the ATO to take these things away because it doesn’t affect them but people depend on those allowances,” said one WA long distance truck driver.
During meetings, the ATO demonstrated a lack of understanding about working patterns for long distance truck drivers, including the frequency of travel and the hours of work. Truck drivers work long days, can be away from home six nights a week and often have little choice but to eat and spend their rest time at expensive truck stops.
Safe Work Australia data for this year shows almost 40% of all workplace deaths involve a transport worker. Fatal crashes involving articulated trucks has increased by over 7% this year, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics.