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Issue #1868      May 15, 2019

Big win for road safety

Changes to the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act, introduced by Victorian Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas, will ensure these workers will no longer be vulnerable to exploitation or forced into unsafe practices by economic pressures down supply chains.

Many of the proposed changes to the Act were suggested by the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) in its submission to the Victorian Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work.

TWU (Vic/Tas Branch) secretary and TWU national vice-president John Berger said the new rules would prevent unsafe driving and be like a pressure valve releasing for owner drivers.

“We have been campaigning for a very long time for these changes and they are a big win for road safety, our members and for this union,” Berger said.

“Currently, dodgy hire companies, competition for work and a lack of regulation mean undercutting is rife and this system only rewards drivers who speed, run red lights, skip fatigue breaks, not maintain vehicles and take drugs to stay awake.”

Under the proposed legislative amendments, owner drivers must be provided cost schedules and contracts and there are financial penalties for infringements to protect owner drivers and a fully-funded Wage Inspectorate will monitor compliance.

The changes are also an important step in the TWU’s nationwide push to secure Safe Rates across the transport industry.

TWU national assistant secretary Nick McIntosh said while the Victorian bill was another step towards giving owner drivers the fairness and safety required to do their jobs, the federal government was still “failing drivers and failing all road users”.

“For too long owner drivers have had to endure pressure and exploitation that puts them and other road users at risk. This is precisely what we need rather than allowing abuses to enter our industry before it’s too late to stop them,” McIntosh said.

“While the Victorian government is moving ahead and recognising pressures drivers are under, the federal government refuses to acknowledge there is a problem.

“Drivers across Australia need a system that deals with safety risks that cause deadly truck crashes.”

The Owner Driver and Forestry Contractors Act changes would also be expanded to cover third party contracting platforms, such as Uber Freight and Uber Eats.

“Food delivery companies control all aspects of the work riders do – the riders bear all the risk and the company enjoys full flexibility in the relationship. This area is crying out for regulation and I congratulate the Andrews government for moving to protect these workers,” John Berger said.

The bill follows new regulations introduced to State Parliament last year that introduced minimum mandatory rates for truck and tipper drivers on State government infrastructure projects.

Next article – The capitalist illusion and technological innovation

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