Victoria’s tip truck drivers must stick together to stop the race to the bottom. That’s the message from Victorian Tippers United (VTU) spokesman Luke McCrone as he rallies the fight back against an alleged rort of pay rates on government projects.
McCrone says the state’s minimum mandatory hourly rates for the various types of trucks is now under threat because a large plant hire group is exploiting a loophole to win contracts.
He says the company, which we can’t name for legal reasons, is undercutting its rivals by offering to pay the required rate of $88.38 per hour for two axle tippers, for example.
But truckies are then asked to join a subcontractor services club, for a voluntary charge of $6.38 per hour, which will give them “priority on all major projects” and access to other benefits, such as discounted rates on tyres and maintenance.
“But you don’t actually get anything for joining this club,” McCrone tells Big Rigs.
“That’s just their sneaky way of saying we’ll pay you the $88.38 because we have to, but what they don’t show you is the bill you then get from the plant hire at the end of the week asking for $6.38 of it back for every hour you’ve worked.”
“The owner-drivers are then left to try and safely put a truck on the road for less and less every year. This race to the bottom has made tip truck driving one of the most dangerous jobs in Australia.”
McCrone says the VTU, an association of owner-drivers, along with workers, and one of the biggest plant hire companies in the market, has now referred the matter to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).
He says the VTU is also talking to the state government but concedes that the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly.
“The government has got to do a better job of educating construction companies that we work for about their obligations,” he said.
“There is no education along chain to make sure everyone knows there is an obligation to pay the higher rate [$88.38 for a tandem, $121.69 for truck and quad axle and $133.54 for truck and quad axle (GCM 50)].
“The other thing we’re after is some sort of pre-approval system to work on government projects. If you’re caught out underpaying you’d then lose the ability to big on government work and I think that would be a pretty big stick.”
With less demand for drivers so far this year, McCrone says he understands why some Victorian truckies have agreed to accept the lower pay rates.
“But it’s only a short-term solution for these guys,” he said. “The fact is you can’t put a truck on the road and maintain it properly for $82 per hour.
“It’s up to the owner-drivers to stick together and fight for change. If we do, we’ll be alright.
“But if you just sit on your hands and hope this will all go away, you will lose.”
Peter Anderson, CEO of the Victorian Transport Association, tells Big Rigs that underpayment of Tipper sub-contractors by major construction contractors has unfortunately been ongoing for decades.
The VTA, through its representation on the Victorian Transport Industry Council, has been able to establish a minimal costing schedule for Tippers which is the standard of all Victorian Government projects, he said.
“Any Tipper sub-contractor who is not adhering to these guidelines on these project will no doubt be hearing from the Wages Inspectorate in the near future,” warns Anderson.
“The VTA continues to advocate for the recognition of the value of road transport and to have the systemic abuse identified and reformed.”