WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle has urged truckies to stop undervaluing their skills and efforts by accepting “crappy kilometre” rates.
Sterle made the plea on his Facebook page while partnering again with Centurion Transport on one of his many charity runs into the Kimberley region in WA last week.
Centurion pays all its drivers on an hourly rate and Sterle said he was reminded again on this trip why that’s a much fairer system.
“I lost nearly three hours yesterday due to tyre issues. How the hell can that be planned into a kilometre rate?” Sterle asks.
“So, I’ll just say this to the drivers out there, ‘Have a think about it, it’s a brand new start to the year, stop undervaluing your wages, stop undervaluing your effort, stop undervaluing your skills.
“If you have an employer that is paying some crappy kilometre rate, give him the flick. There are plenty of companies out there paying good money, an hourly rate, and you get paid for every hour that you do.”
Sterle concedes that there is the “odd good company” that pays acceptable kilometre rates, and they don’t ask drivers to do any unloading or loading.
“And if they do, they get paid hourly, but there’s not many of them.
“In my view, there is no way known that you can set a kilometre rate on a long-distance route when you don’t know what’s going to happen.
“How do you know we’re not going to get caught at a client’s place, how do you know if there’s going to be an accident on the road and you get stranded there, how do you know about a bushfire where you may get caught?”
“You don’t know. Get rid of the kilometre rates and go and work for a decent company that pays for every single cent of every minute you put in.
“There’s plenty out there, trust me.”
In his comprehensive senate inquiry report into the industry, tabled in 2021, Sterle recommended that an independent body be set up to oversee universal and binding industry standards, including binding standards with respect to pay.
The road transport sections of the contentious Closing Loopholes Bill, now being debated in Parliament, would enable the Fair Work Commission to make minimum standards orders for owner-drivers.
However, the Senate Education and Employment Committee report published last week recommends the bill be amended to empower the commission to make orders in relation to the whole contract chain, not just owner-drivers. At present, the bill would enable the federal government to make regulations about this.
Australian Trucking Association (ATA) CEO Mathew Munro said that embedding the power in the bill would provide more certainty for the industry, as the ATA argued in its submission.
“Road transport industry contractual chain orders will be as important as road transport minimum standards orders. Accordingly, the Act should set out the commission’s powers, rather than leaving them to regulation later,” Munro said.
The report argues for a new failsafe mechanism to enable the minister, or the commission on application, to defer or suspend an order while the commission reviews it.
“The case for the failsafe mechanism is that this would be a new role for the commission that would involve issuing orders about business-to-business transactions,” Munro said.
“Again, it’s important that the failsafe mechanism is in the Act rather than leaving it to regulation.”